Turkmenistan: Mother Threatened For Seeking Truth about Son’s Death in Army

A young Turkmen conscript, Seydulla Rasulov, died almost six months ago, on December 8, 2019, after a month of service in a military unit in Mary region. He passed away in the district hospital in the village of Yoloten, not far from his unit. According to the certificate signed by forensic medical pathologist G. Annadurdiyev, the cause of Rasulov’s death was meningitis of which “the source is not known”. The young man’s relatives have good reason not to believe the doctor’s findings.

Seydulla Rasulov with his girlfriend (left) and aunt

Seydulla Rasulov grew up a happy, healthy young man, full of life. His teachers loved him, his peers respected him, and he was the life and soul of any party. He did well at school and was planning to study at the Ministry of Defense Military Institute after his army service. Everyone who knew him well remarked on his commitment to his country and his great sense of patriotism. This can be seen in Rasulov’s cherished ambition to serve in the presidential guard, though he knew that it has tough requirements and daily drill sessions. His hopes were not unreasonable, as he was tall, well built and good-looking. He had even been shortlisted to go there, but the notorious “uch arka” or “three generations” requirement ruined his military career; students and state employees have to provide information about their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. A criminal case had been opened against Rasulov’s father, who died in 2013, which put an end to his service in the elite regiment.

On November 5, 2019, Rasulov was sent to serve in Mary region. There was no hint of the tragedy to come, as the young man left in good health and spirits, with no known medical problems, so the news of his sudden death came as a shock to his family. A picture of what happened emerged later. Raw conscript Rasulov was in a very bad way when he was taken into hospital. People who saw him there admitted to his mother that he had been badly beaten, apparently so badly that all his internal organs had been damaged. Over the course of the week the soldier’s condition deteriorated, and when the doctors finally realized the gravity of his condition he was taken into intensive care.

A source that knows the family well said that Rasulov suffered terrible pain, crying out throughout the five hours that he was in the ICU. The doctors’ attempts to save him failed and Seydulla died. Only then were his relatives informed.

“His mother and brother came to the hospital and waited for two hours for them to release the body,” the source said. “When they took him home and saw his body, they were horrified: he had been cut open and stitched up from top to bottom, and his arms, legs, and back were covered in bruises.”

They were told later that during the autopsy the pathologists had rinsed all internal organs that had signs of bleeding. Asked by his mother why her son’s body was bruised, the medics replied that it was because of the autopsy and subsequent stitches.

For the six months since Rasulov’s death his relatives have been trying to find out what happened to him in the army; who beat him up and why, and to demand punishment for the perpetrators. They have appealed to the military unit’s command, the executive authorities of Mary and Lebap regions, and the prosecutor’s office, and even written to the president. There has been no reply from the latter, while the state structures still tell his mother to stop her search for justice, threatening her with the death of her other son. The unfortunate woman realizes that to fight alone against the bodies of state power is equivalent to tilting at windmills, but to give up would mean betraying her son and his memory. That is not what she had in mind when she raised him for 18 years, teaching and nurturing him, and then gave him into the hands of so-called fatherly commanders; not to lose him in the course of a month.

This is by no means the first case of soldiers in the Turkmen army dying in unclarified circumstances. In February this year Saparmurat Jumabaev (pictured) committed suicide when he was serving in motor-rifle division 11206 in Akdepe district, Dashoguz region. Like Rasulov, the young soldier had only just started his service; three months later he decided to end his life. The situations of both guys are very similar: it looks as though fellow soldiers regularly beat them; the command of both units did not get involved in relations among the soldiers, and after their deaths hushed up what happened. Like Rasulov, Jumabaev was given an invented diagnosis post-mortem – mental disturbance, though the young man had successfully completed his higher education not long before his call-up.

The Ministry of Defense and military prosecutor’s office do their utmost to sweep such incidents under the carpet, while the special services use threats to keep relatives quiet.

Turkmen.news hopes that this report will make officials in Ashgabat, prosecutors, and the Ministry of Defense aware of the situation in Turkmenistan’s military units.

Healthy young men with good potential to be of use to their homeland are being killed in the Turkmen army today!

They are being killed but their relatives are told that they died from illness. With good reason mothers and fathers try to send their sons abroad as soon as they have finished school. If their son returns from the army fit and well, parents organize a banquet – thank God he has come back. They do this with good reason, as they know that beatings in the army are fatal.

Seydulla Rasulov’s death might be a local incident, a botched job by officers and prosecutors in Mary and Lebap that the capital does not even know about, though it’s unlikely. We hope that this report will go to the very top and that there will be an honest investigation and those guilty will receive the punishment they deserve. We call on the security bodies to stop their pressure on Seydulla Rasulov’s mother, especially to stop threatening her with the death of her second son.