Turkmenistan Residents Detained for Public Displays of Affection


Police in Turkmenistan have detained couples for holding hands, sitting close together, and public displays of affection.

A young married couple in Turkmenabat, witnessed cuddling in a parked car, were horrified when a policeman threatened to detain them for “undermining moral values.”

In his defence, the man said, “I hugged my wife to calm her down. She was crying as we were discussing where to get enough money for essential medicines.”

Describing what had ensued, he said that the policeman had demanded to see both their passports and marriage certificates. However, after receiving verification that they were married, the policeman continued to harass them in hope of a bribe.

The case is not unusual and in recent weeks, Turkmenabat, the administrative center of the Lepab province, has received reports of many similar incidents in which the city’s police have seen fit to reprimand  couples who hold hands, sit beside each other, kiss, or hug in public places.

Although public  displays of affection are not banned in Turkmenistan, the police in the country’s regions, including the capital Ashgabat and Mary province, have detained young men and women in parks and on the streets for violating “social norms.” In the worst case scenario, “violators” in Mary were handcuffed and forced to attend lectures on moral values at the local police station.

Residents say that restrictions imposed in Turkmenabat  since April, have created a backlash of complaints from  local students and other young people of being ambushed by security forces who appeared to be acting as vice police.

According to several people targeted by the raids, most incidents ended with the police taking monetary bribes from the couples.