Army officers in Turkmenistan reportedly convicted for practicing non-traditional Islam


ASHGABAT (TCA) — The foreign-based independent website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports that officers from the 22nd motor rifle division of the Turkmen armed forces have been accused of disseminating non-traditional Islam and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

The Chronicles of Turkmenistan learned that in late April, Turkmen special services initiated an investigation in the military unit located in the city of Serdar. Based on the results of the investigation and a trial, 12 individuals representing senior and junior army officers were sentenced to 10 to 15 year imprisonment terms and, according to other sources, from 18 to 23 years in prison.

The investigation was launched after a recruit, who was forced by senior conscripts to remove an alaja (traditional amulet woven from threads of various colors and worn on the wrist), had filed a complaint.

The recruit was said that protective amulets do not correspond to Muslim canons and was warned that he was obliged to attend the meetings where the squadron commander spoke about true Islam.

In the course of the investigation over 70 people including private soldiers were detained. Many conscripts were sent to complete their military service at the Turkmen-Afghan border. According to unconfirmed sources, about ten soldiers were arrested.

Several officers were deprived of their military ranks and awards but escaped imprisonment.

So far, there have been no reports on religious extremism in Turkmenistan, a country having a porous border with the war-torn Afghanistan.

Sergey Kwan