Upmarket Bar in Ashgabat Closed After Brawls Involving President’s Cousins

The upmarket Sky Bar in Ashgabat has closed after information leaked to the media about two brawls involving cousins of the president. The younger members of the Berdimuhamedov clan are not too distraught though – they have recently been holding parties in a private house in the capital’s second residential district.

Shamyrat Rejepov

In January Radio Azatlyk published a report on a punch-up at the Sky Bar involving Shamyrat Rejepov. According to the radio station’s sources, when the nephew of Turkmenistan’s second president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and cousin of the incumbent president Serdar Berdimuhamedov appeared in the establishment, almost everyone scarpered. Whoever didn’t manage to leave came to regret it later. Allegedly, Shammy, as he’s known in Turkmenistan, and his bodyguards beat up a bartender, a pregnant woman, and her husband.

Turkmen.news managed to get in touch with a source who knows exactly what happened in the bar that evening. He gave a more muted description of events.

“Of course, some people left the bar when they heard about the ‘nephew’ as they didn’t want to get involved,” the source recalls. “But it’s not the case that everyone immediately ran out in horror, crying ‘Shammy’s coming!’ He did harass the pregnant woman, and was angry that she was hanging out in bars. He didn’t hit her, but did try to make her leave. The fight broke out when her companion decided to stand up for her, but Shamyrat’s guards quickly separated them. And he just threw a glass at the bartender and missed. It’s not true that the bartender hit him in response.”

According to the source, it all lasted no more than half an hour, after which Shamyrat and his bodyguards left. Azatlyk wrote that Rejepov was angry, as not everyone left the bar when he arrived. Our source doesn’t agree with that. He thinks that Shamyrat was just in a bad mood, and went for the bartender “because the nephews always think they are not being served what they demanded.”

The incident happened in early January, and in February the Sky Bar closed. Most of the employees were transferred to an establishment on DOSAAF road. The owners are trying to recreate the atmosphere of the old Sky Bar at the new venue, while hoping that some of the old, less than ideal, patrons won’t go there.

This was not the first brawl at that establishment. In fall 2022 another of Serdar’s cousins, Ahmet Geldimyradov, smashed a bottle over a senior prosecutor’s head during a drinking session at the Sky Bar. The president was shown a recording made by the bar’s closed-circuit TV cameras. What happened next illustrates clearly that the president does not have absolute power in the Berdimuhamedov clan. There is obviously opposition to him.

Serdar dismissed Ahmet from the post of deputy head of the Turkmengaz state concern, and Ahmet’s brother Arslan from his post as dean of the International University of Oil and Gas. But in less than two months Ahmet resurfaced in the Scientific Research Institute of the Oil and Gas Complex of Turkmenistan. When he found out about this, the president decided to end his cousin’s career completely and reprimanded the then chairman of Turkmengaz, Batyr Amanov, and the relevant deputy prime minister, Shahym Abdrahmanov.

And now that the bar has reappeared in the foreign media in connection with the “civilized leisure time” of the president’s relatives a decision has been taken: it may not be possible to get rid of the riotous cousins, but at least’s it’s possible to get rid of the bar. This is already the second loss for the head of state’s troublesome relatives: in 2020-2021, Ahmet’s Minara café, where they used to gather, was sold and then subsequently shut down.

Ahmet Geldimyradov’s party home in Ashgabat

But is this really making Arkadag’s nephews suffer? Sources say that the brothers Ahmet, Arslan, and Bayram Geldimyradov now hold their drinking sessions in a private house next-door to the Kamyshi restaurant in Ashgabat’s second residential district. From the outside this large house looks unremarkable. But in fact inside it is fully equipped for parties, including a pool and expensive music kit for guest singers. Many young women are always brought to the parties.

Shamyrat Rejepov does not appear at the Geldimyradov house. But of course he too has found other venues after the closure of the Sky Bar.

The majority of Arkadag’s nephews are hardcore alcoholics – for example, Shamyrat and Hajymyrad Rejepov, their cousin Kemal Rejepov, and Ahmet Geldimyradov who caused the first brawl in the Sky Bar. But there are some who have not sunk to that level. On the whole though, almost all the young men in the clan are notorious for their drinking. At least Serdar Berdimuhamedov has banned almost all of them from travelling abroad, so they have to limit their carousing to home turf.