Attack on Geldy Kyarizov’s family, Exit from Turkmenistan Denied

Geldy Kyarizov’s family suffered a violent attack on their lives on 5 August 2015 as they attempted to leave the country. A leading expert on the famous Akhal-Teke horse breed, Geldy Kyarizov, and his family have once again been denied their fundamental right to leave Turkmenistan, despite Geldy’s failing health, and no charges against them. Prior to leaving for the airport, a car tried to run over Geldy’s 14-year-old daughter, Sofia, leaving her aunt Elena Serebryannik with multiple injuries.

This evening, Geldy Kyarizov, Sofia Kyarizova and Geldy’s sister-in-law Elena Serebryannik were preparing to travel to the Ashgabat airport, and went to the neighborhood store to buy some last minute supplies. As they were walking to the store, a large car turned from an alley and came right at Sophia. Her aunt pushed her out of the way, and suffered the impact instead. “This is not the first time my sister has been attacked,” said Daud Kyarizov, Geldy’s son who managed to flee the country in 2010 and is now residing in the US. “They [the authorities] ran into her in January 2014, when the family attempted to leave the country for the first time. That attack resulted in Sofia’s hip fracture, and was a disgusting message to my father to stop their attempts at getting out. Now, they did it again. My father has done so much good for Turkmenistan, and this is what they are doing to him.”

Shaken up and with physical injuries, the family still went to the airport in an attempt to board their Moscow-bound flight. Kyarizov and his family were invited to Switzerland by the Long Riders’ Guild, a prestigious international association of equestrian explorers, of which Kyarizov is a member. Sofia and Elena are both Russian citizens, and Kyarizov was approved for a special long-term visa in Russia. At immigration in the Ashgabat airport, the border official stamped their tickets with a stamp of denial and swiftly turned them down.

Geldy Kyarizov is famous in Turkmenistan and abroad for bringing the well-known Akhal-Teke horse breed back from near extinction. The Akhal-Teke is an indispensible cultural symbol of Turkmenistan, central to the coat of arms, and the favorite gift of President Berdymukhamedov to dignitaries and heads of State. President Berdymukhamedov, as did his predecessor Niyazov, takes personal pride in being perceived as the foremost expert in the breed, and will not allow Kyarizov to travel abroad, seeing him as competition. A renowned horse breeder and rider, Kyarizov was recently accepted as a member into both the Royal Geographic Society and the Long Riders’ Guild.

In 2002, Kyarizov fell out of favor with then President Niyazov, and was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison on trumped up charges of negligence and abuse of power. During an interrogation prior to his trial, he suffered a heart attack, which left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. In prison, he was consistently denied visits from his family, harassed and tortured. In 2006, he was transferred to the notorious Ovadan Depe Prison, where he lost 40 kilograms, and his health deteriorated to a critical point. In October 2007, Kyarizov was amnestied and was released from prison. Since then, his livestock has been confiscated; he and his family have been under constant surveillance and serious harassment from the authorities. Geldy and his family have been consistently denied medical attention that they desperately need.

On 2 August 2015, the day that Geldy purchased the Moscow bound tickets, he was violently attacked on the street in Ashgabat. Trying to provoke him, the attacker shook him and yelled violent threats, all the while looking at another man standing nearby. Kyarizov could make out threats such as “breathe while you still can…” and “you think you can do anything…” Before this, the day after receiving his Russian visa, an official from the National Security Committee visited Kyarizov, who told him that “even if the President died, he [Kyarizov] would not leave the country.” Prior to today’s attempt to leave the country, Kyarizov and his family were denied exit on 11 December 2014, despite having received permission from the Russian Embassy to travel.

“The latest denial by the Turkmen authorities of Kyarizov’s request to travel abroad is a gross violation of his human rights. The family has faced violence and intimidation for simply exercising its right to travel freely. The Turkmen government should immediately and unconditionally allow Geldy Kyarizov and his family to depart Turkmenistan,” said Kate Watters, Executive Director of Crude Accountability.

Freedom of movement, including the right to leave your own country, is enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Turkmenistan is party to. Crude Accountability calls upon the government of Turkmenistan to immediately allow Geldy Kyarizov and his family to travel from Turkmenistan to attend the cultural events to which they have been invited and to seek the medical attention that he so badly needs.