Turkmen women issued ‘Botox bans’ on flying by airport officers running facial recognition software

Turkmen women issued ‘Botox bans’ on flying by airport officers running facial recognition software
In Turkmenistan, the simple Botox cosmetic procedure can lead to rather more complicated bureaucratic procedures later on. / D. Schwarzburg, cc-by-sa 1.0.
By bne IntelIiNews November 23, 2022

Women with Botoxed lips and fake eyelashes were reportedly among passengers banned from boarding a plane in Turkmenistan by airport migration officers operating facial recognition software.

Several women refused permission to board a plane to Dubai this week spoke to RFE/RL about their experience at Ashgabat International Airport.

One of the barred passengers, a 40-year-old resident of the western Balkan Province, was reported by the news service as saying that migration officers claimed that facial-recognition software on their computers "would not be able to identify" the women because of their augmented lips or other face parts.

A woman who identified herself as Mahri from Balkan Province, was reported as saying: "When they sell air tickets to Dubai, they do not warn us about the facial requests. The ticket also does not carry any instructions on that matter. When just four hours are left before the flight, migration officers start studying our faces and in the very last moment say that they cannot allow us to board.

"First of all, it is a huge financial blow, secondly, it is psychological pressure. Our freedom of movement and gender rights are being fully violated here."

She added: "The tone the international airport's employees talked to us in such situations is as if women and girls change their facial features with the aim of becoming prostitutes while in Dubai."

In May, the authorities in tightly controlled, authoritarian Turkmenistan were accused of introducing “Taliban-style” bans that mean women are no longer allowed to wear "tight-fitting" clothes, dye their hair or use beauty accessories such as false nails or eyelashes.

Traffic police in Turkmenistan also started prohibiting male drivers of private vehicles from picking up women unless they were related, while females were banned from sitting in the front seat next to the driver.

Breast enhancement, lip fillers and eyebrow microblading, popular with many young women in Turkmenistan, were also targeted by officials, with some women reportedly thrown out of jobs after complaints from the authorities.

Protests and public criticism of government policies are extremely rare in Turkmenistan, where opponents of the regime often end up in prison or are forcibly placed in psychiatric hospitals.

Matters seem to have deteriorated since new President Serdar Berdimuhamedov took office in March, replacing his father Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.