Black Face Masks Banned in Turkmen Capital

A total ban on the wearing of black medical masks has been imposed in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. Earlier, the restriction applied only to car drivers.

People at a market in Ashtabat, 2021

According to sources, the police are now stopping pedestrians in black masks too. They don’t explain the reason for the ban, saying only that “everyone has been told” about it.

The police fine “rule-breakers” 50 manats (less than $2, although the fine for failure to wear a mask in a public place used to be 21 manats). If the fine is paid on the spot, the “offender” is immediately released. If they try to argue, they are taken to the police station.

Black masks are also being targeted in schools. Children wearing them are photographed and parents are then told to pay the 50-manat fine.

Traffic police began to require Ashgabat drivers to wear only white masks in December 2021. In the case of drivers, this fitted the overall context of the authorities’ campaign against dark-colored cars. Even individual car parts that are a dark color have to be repainted in lighter shades. But it was reported in December that the mask requirements were being applied to other spheres too. In particular, complaints about “irregular” masks were made to university students.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic masks were banned in Turkmenistan and wearers were accused of “stirring up panic.” After the visit of the WHO mission in July 2020 the authorities began to introduce public health regulations to counter the epidemic, including the compulsory wearing of masks. At the same time, the authorities do not acknowledge that coronavirus has entered the country, although sources report a large number of sick patients and deaths.