Authorities in Turkmenistan Using Cab Drivers As Informants to Identify “Unreliable” Citizens

Turkmen authorities are forcing cab drivers to denounce and identify citizens they consider “unreliable”. This is being reported by Radio Azatlyk.

Ministry of Homeland Security (MHS) officers are reportedly forcing cab drivers to ask passengers various questions to find out their attitudes toward events in the country, and the overall situation.

“MHS officers are using cab drivers in the capital as informants. They try to incentivize these cab drivers with promises to help them if they are stopped by traffic police officers to extort bribes,” one of the capital’s cab drivers said, on condition of anonymity.

In an attempt to recruit cab drivers as informants, MHS officials hint that if the drivers agree to cooperate and provide information of interest to the authorities, their cooperation may also be rewarded financially.

“Security officials instruct drivers who agree to cooperate to ask certain questions. The questions should mostly be put to passengers who are coming from the airport, railway station, shopping centers and bazaars,” said another cab driver.

According to him, in order to strike up a conversation, the MHS officers tell drivers to ask a certain list of questions to gauge their passengers’ opinions and attitudes.

“In this way, they say, they are trying to identify ‘unreliable people’. Some drivers are agreeing to participate in these dirty games,” said a driver from Ashgabat.

Azatlyk is reporting that in recent months the Turkmen authorities have increased control over the country’s citizens. Earlier this year it reported that security agencies were questioning the parents of schoolchildren who used VPN services to visit sites disapproved by the authorities, and that these families were included in the lists of “unreliable families”.