Suspicions Surround Death of Ethnic Baloch on Turkmen Farm

A 17-year-old farm hand has died in Turkmenistan in suspicious circumstances. Samir Pirmammedov, an ethnic Baloch, was working on a private farm near the capital, Ashgabat. His employers say that the teenager hanged himself and no one else was involved. Samir’s relatives, however, say he had no reason to end his life, and that his murder was made to look like suicide.

Samir Pirmammedov was born in 2007 in Mary region. His mother is deaf and registered disabled, while his father, Muhammed Pirmammedov, is serving a sentence in a prison camp. Samir and his brother Sanjar, therefore, had to look for work from an early age. Since there are few vacancies in their native region, the brothers, like many in their area, left to find work in Ahal region.

It’s not known exactly how they ended up at the private livestock farm in the village of Yarajy, in Ahal region’s Baharden district. But that’s where they settled for the time being. They pastured sheep and camels, laid in fodder, cleaned the cattle pens, and worked on the land. The owners of the farm provided food and accommodation for their workers. The brothers were hoping to buy themselves telephones with their wages.

Samir and Sanjar worked on the farm for around three weeks, before Samir was found hanged on some hay bales.

The next day his body, wrapped in a rug, was taken to his home village in Mary region.

Samir’s relatives think he was murdered, and the scene was arranged to look like suicide. The young man had no reason to end his life, and his relatives found various injuries on his body. Several of his back teeth had been knocked out, his face was swollen, and he had lumps on his head. Moreover, the teenager was found hanging on hay bales which had not been there overnight – the hired hands themselves stack them up as required, and it would be too much for one person on their own, especially one so young, to pile them on top of each other.

Samir Pirmammedov’s body given to his family has heard that relations were difficult between the hired workers and the farm’s owners, Sahet Gurbanov and his children. For example, Sahet Gurbanov’s son, Dovran Gurbanov, 36, would badly beat the workers, supposedly as punishment for misdemeanors, could make them dig the ground with their fingers, or bury someone in earth up to their neck and keep them there for several days until they promised to bring more workers to the farm.

Most of the hired workers were Balochis, and the son of the head of the family allegedly told them in a fit of rage, “You Balochis are unclean. Your race should be rooted out from our land!”

Relatives claim to have found out that on the morning of his death Samir and Dovran had an argument. The owner’s son didn’t like Samir standing in the yard, hands in pockets, and doing nothing. It’s unclear who said what and how serious the employer’s complaints were about Samir.

It’s known only that on that day while jobs were being allocated, Sanjar and other workers were instructed to do one thing, and another group of hired workers to do something else, while Dovran took Samir, saying that he had a separate job for him. About an hour later head of the family Sahet Gurbanov shouted to Sanjar something along the lines of: Come here, your brother’s hanged himself!

It’s difficult to say how accurate all this information is. telephoned Dovran Gurbanov and he agreed to comment on the situation. He denies all the accusations.

According to Dovran, after Samir’s death he was visited by employees of the prosecutor’s office and other officials. The law-enforcement officers spoke separately to each worker, including Samir’s brother. No one made any complaints about the working conditions. Nobody ever beat anyone on the farm or even swore at them. The representatives of the prosecutor’s office specifically advised Sanjar not to be afraid of anything and to tell everything how it is, to which the young man allegedly said that he had nothing against his employers.

Dovran said that investigators and experts closely examined Samir’s body, stripped him, and did not find any traces of violence. As for the hay bales that the young man supposedly could not have stacked together, according to Dovran that’s not the case. He said they are not large bales and even teenagers can handle them easily.

Asked why the young man had suddenly decided to kill himself, Dovran replied that not long ago a 44-year-old relative, a father of four, had also committed suicide.

“How can you explain this?” he asked. “No one knows what’s in store for us.’

Dovran confirmed that the brothers had worked for just three weeks. Once they had worked a full month they planned to return home as the sowing season had started in their village. He added that, allegedly, after Samir’s death, his brother Sanjar had wept over the body, lamenting, “Samir, Samir! This is what your classmates did. You said you’d do it too, and you have. But you shouldn’t have done it.” hasn’t been able to verify that three of Samir’s classmates did indeed commit suicide.

We did not manage to speak to Sahet Gurbanov. His son said that Gurbanov Senior was in hospital following an operation to amputate his toes because of complications caused by diabetes. Dovran said that after what happened to Samir they don’t have any hired workers.

“If I had been to blame, then Sanjar would presumably have had a go at me and said, ‘It’s all your fault,’ but he didn’t,” Dovran said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t take them from their homes, they came here themselves to work.”

Whoever is right, the death of the 17-year-old seems strange. On the other hand, there is no direct proof that the employer is to blame. The status of this family – how rich and influential they are – isn’t known either. The dead teenager’s relatives say the family has a lot of influence as they have relatives in senior positions. Members of the family though describe themselves as just ordinary farmers.

But Samir and Sanjar’s loved ones have no doubt. Their family is so poor that the neighbors who came to the 40th day memorial gathering brought their own rugs and cushions to sit on, so that they didn’t have to sit on the bare floor. There is no one these people can turn to. Not even the law-enforcement agencies who, according to some reports, came to their house and told them to stop describing Samir Pirmammedov’s death as murder.

In the recent case of another Baloch from Mary region, Allamurat Hudayramov, law-enforcement officers, this time from the prosecutor’s office, crudely covered up a crime by their colleagues from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was suspected of drug dealing and put on the wanted list. The young man went to the police station voluntarily to give a statement, and three days later his body was returned to his family bearing numerous traces of torture.

After publication Hudayramov’s relatives came under intense pressure, but they, like the relatives of Samir Pirmammedov, just want justice. Perhaps President Serdar Berdimuhamedov himself will read this and take both cases under his personal supervision.