Anti-Government Slogans Appear on Banknotes in Turkmenistan

Banknotes with comments critical of the president are starting to circulate in Turkmenistan. Messages in Turkmen such as “Death to Haramdag, the people have woken up” and “Haramdag, güm bol!” have been written by hand on notes of varying denominations. A source in Ashgabat received some of the notes in change for a taxi ride.

“Death to Haramdag, the people have woken up” on a 5-manat ($0,25) banknote

The epithet “Haramdag” plays on the president’s official title “Arkadag” (which literally means a mountain behind one’s back, in other words, a supporter or protector), replacing “arka” (behind) with “haram” meaning something forbidden. “Güm bol!” is a popular expression among Turkmen who are dissatisfied with the president’s regime and can be loosely translated as “Get lost!”

The source said that similar banknotes have been received in change at the market and even from ATMs. The correspondent in the north-eastern Lebap region has also seen banknotes with anti-presidential inscriptions.

“Haramdag, get lost!” on a 20-manat ($1) banknote

“It’s a silent but highly effective form of protest against the president,” the source in Ashgabat said. “It’s very dangerous to distribute leaflets and they would almost certainly be destroyed right away, but you don’t get rid of money so easily, especially not high denomination notes.”

The population’s disapproval of the state policy and President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov personally was exacerbated after the powerful hurricane that struck Lebap and Mary regions on April 27. A few days later houses that had lost their roofs were drenched in heavy rain. Dozens of deaths were reported, including of children ( cited two specific cases), and thousands of people suffered significant losses and damage, but the authorities pretended nothing had happened. People did not receive any help at all from the state, and the residents themselves had to bear the costs of repairing their homes and replacing their property. Meanwhile, Berdimuhamedov sent humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and Russia, and told his Uzbek counterparts that he was ready to help the districts of Uzbekistan hit by the storm.

The people of Lebap saw the lack of response from the government and its veil of silence over the problem as real sacrilege and this led to protests by citizens abroad. Dozens of our compatriots in Turkey, Northern Cyprus, and the USA have held protests in recent weeks. People openly voiced their anger at the president’s failure to act and his indifference towards his own people, demanding his resignation. Several initiative groups are preparing mass protests around the world at the end of June.

The dissatisfaction of Turkmenistan’s citizens is compounded by the chronic food crisis, the impossibility of sending money to loved ones, corruption, and the lack of employment and opportunities to realize their potential at home