Turkmen Soldiers Die in Crash on Way to Harvest Pistachios

Eleven Turkmen soldiers have died in a road accident in Serhetabat (formerly Kushka) near the border with Afghanistan, a well informed source told turkmen.news. The accident happened on September 2 when the troops from the Tagtabazar border detachment were on their way to harvest pistachio nuts. Forty servicemen were travelling in a military truck provided by their commanders.

Pistachio grove in Serhetabat

“The terrain isn’t easy. It’s hilly with some steep inclines and bad roads,” the source said. “It’s not clear yet why the truck fell from the hillside and overturned. One theory is that the driver couldn’t manage the steering, another that there was some mechanical failure, but 11 people died and many were injured.”

It’s also not clear why the soldiers had been sent to harvest pistachio nuts. Had there been an order from above to harvest a quota of pistachios, as is the case with the cotton harvest across the country, or was it the private initiative of the border detachment commanders in order to sell the pistachios at the market?

According to the source, the deaths of the soldiers are being hushed up. Local people know about the tragedy but don’t talk about it, not even among themselves. The Internet has been bad in Serhatabat for the past few days.

“So our guys are dying just like that, on the way to pick pistachios,” the source wrote. “Not in fierce battles with the enemy on the border with one of the most dangerous countries in the world. They’d been sent on a task that had nothing to do with their military service at all! These were guys who’d gone off to the army to defend their homeland, as they say…”

The pistachio grove was planted in 200 hectares of land in Serhetabat district at the start of this century.