Foreign visitors to Turkmenistan games unaffected by local bans

ASHGABAT (TCA) — Foreign visitors and participants of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that will be held in Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat September 17-27 are “isolated” from local citizens and unaffected by local bans, the foreign-based independent website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports.

Authorities expect tens of thousands of foreigners to visit the country during the largest sports event in Turkmenistan’s history.

Ahead and for the period of the competition, authorities have banned the sale of alcohol in Ashgabat, restricted the movement of residents of the provinces to the capital, ordered former inmates to stay away from the games’ venues, and tried to clear the city of stray dogs and cats as well as child beggars.

The Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports that walk-through metal detectors have been installed at the entrance to Ashgabat shopping centre Berkarar since late August, and all customers’ bags are checked by manual metal detectors. The supermarket’s territory is cordoned off.

According to one source, local residents are denied access to the shopping centre whereas only foreigners are allowed in. Another source claims that residents are given access only after security check procedures.

The Olympic Village of the Games is completely cordoned off. According to eye witnesses, cigarettes and alcohol can be freely purchased in the Village. The selection is wide and the prices are low.

At the same time, the sale of alcohol and cigarettes for locals is banned.

It is reported that shops with affordable prices, internet access, selected entertainment and discos have been arranged for foreign nationals, and local bans do not apply to them.

Chronicles of Turkmenistan correspondents report that foreign visitors are often seen on the streets smoking a cigarette or with alcohol in their hands. In no way do the police respond to this, although local residents would be taken immediately to police stations for similar “wrongdoings” and in the best case scenario would be fined or in the worst case detained for several days.

Ashgabat residents do not hide their indignation. “Does this mean that they [foreigners] can do what they like whereas we, the citizens of this country, are forbidden to do anything?” a resident of the capital said. “We have been isolated from foreigners as barbarians,” another resident complained to the Chronicles of Turkmenistan.

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Times of Central Asia