A noted Turkmen blogger and stand-up comic has reportedly been beaten to death in Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat after returning from a long stay in Turkey.
The killing comes at a time when many Turkmen who were long-term resident in Turkey have been forced to return to Turkmenistan after the Turkmen and Turkish regimes agreed on a cancellation of Turkey’s visa-free arrangements for Turkmen migrants, though whether this development was a factor in this case is not known.
Thirty-year-old Muhammed Mammedov and his friend were late at night on October 4 attacked by unknown assailants, according to Turkmen.news. The blogger's friend was said to have sustained minor injuries, but Mammedov himself was severely beaten and died hours later.
The news website reported a source as saying that after the attack, some of the assailants carried “half-dead” Mammedov to his apartment and put him to bed, where he was discovered by his father and young son the next morning.
Turkmen.news wrote: “Colleagues of the deceased, as well as commentators on social networks, point out several incomprehensible moments in this tragic story. Firstly, how could ordinary hooligans or just passers-by beat a man half to death, and then carry him into his own house?”
It added: ”Secondly, in Ashgabat there are police booths… at literally every step, where officers are on duty around the clock. How did no one notice anything during such a fight?"
Whether law enforcement agencies have opened a criminal case into the incident is not known because the internal affairs department in Turkmenistan—one of the most closed and repressive nations in the world—does not publish data on crimes, Current Time reported.
October has brought reports of thousands of Turkmen being forced to leave Turkey amid a renewed crackdown by the Turkish authorities on illegal migrants employed as undocumented workers and the Turkish government’s ending, at the request of the Turkmen dictatorship, of visa-free travel for Turkmen citizens.
The strictly authoritarian Berdimuhamedov regime, notorious for restricting freedom of movement and other basic civil rights, asked Ankara to scrap the provision that allowed Turkmen to stay in Turkey without a visa for up to 30 days. One big concern for the Turkmen authorities are opposition activities that can take root in Turkmen migrant communities abroad.
The visa-free status that has been withdrawn allowed Turkmen to apply for visa extensions and residency permits or seek political asylum.
Many of the Turkmen deportees from Turkey were contemplating going to Russia, home to millions of migrants from neighbouring Central Asian countries, according to a report by RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service. It quoted several Turkmen as saying some people were borrowing money at high interest rates to pay for a Russian visa and plane tickets, on the hope that they will be able to find work in Russia and repay their debts.
"Most women migrants from Mary [in Turkmenistan who have been expelled from Turkey] have gone to the [Russian resort city of] Sochi, where they work in restaurants and hotels," one was cited as saying.
"There is no point of staying in Turkey anymore, it's impossible to get an official work permit there," another Turkmen was reported as saying, adding: "You can work illegally, but the [police] will eventually track you down and deport you."
About 2,500 Turkmen in Turkish deportation facilities were flown home in August and September, sources in Ashgabat told the RFE/RL news service.
Turkey's Migration Agency figures show 198,000 Turkmen citizens lived in Turkey legally as of mid-September. In September last year, when the visa-free scheme was scrapped, the figure stood at more than 230,000 Turkmen.
The real number of Turkmen citizens living in Turkey and other countries is certainly much higher than the official figures show. Many stay abroad with expired visas and other documents.