Sick Inmates Face Prospect of Cold Winter Sleeping in Turkmen Prison Yard

Around 50 prisoners receiving treatment at the MR-B/15 prison hospital in Turkmenistan’s Mary region are at risk of spending the fall and winter outdoors. Although the hospital has enough beds, the inmates have all been turfed out into the yard to lie in tents or on traditional tapchan platforms. And all because unofficially a bed in the hospital costs money that the prisoners don’t have.

Abdy-Shukur Prison in Turkmenistan

According to a source in one of the country’s defense and security ministries, there are enough places in the hospital. However, in the Turkmen prison system treatment is tacitly considered a “perk” that has to be paid for. Patients who cannot afford to pay a bribe have been driven outside. And they are the majority. All the patients have serious illnesses, mainly severe forms of tuberculosis. Their relatives hardly visit them, as every visit requires a food parcel and expensive medications.

But there’s good news too. Tajik citizen Sabzali Bandayev, who is close to death in MR-B/15, has been receiving much better care since we reported his case on August 21. Earlier, the patient, who is also in the final stages of TB, could not even get half a tablet of analgin. Now staff regularly take his temperature, put him on a drip, carry out various procedures, and monitor his well-being.

We issued a plea for Bandayev’s brother and sisters in Tajikistan to pay attention to their brother’s situation. They could ask for their brother’s release by reminding Tajik diplomats that Turkmen law allows for the release of fatally ill prisoners. Our sources managed to get in touch with the family, but they said that Sabzali was their father’s son from a different wife so they did not want to get involved.

Sadly, not everyone is lucky enough to have loving relatives. But there is another option. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon recently invited the chairman of the Turkmen Halk Maslahaty (the upper house of parliament), Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, to attend the Fifth Consultative Meeting of Central Asian Heads of State to be held on September 14 in Dushanbe. It would be a goodwill gesture to release Sabzali Bandayev before the visit and allow him to die in his homeland.   

Either way, we are glad there has been an improvement in the conditions of Bandayev’s detention as a result. We hope that this report will have an equally positive impact on the fates of those 50 prisoners who have been kicked outside for being unable to pay bribes.