Human Trafficking in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia that shares borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Afghanistan. It became independent after the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991. According to Human Rights Watch, Turkmenistan remains a country that is partially isolated from the rest of the world due to its political and geographical situation. Human trafficking in Turkmenistan is a critical issue that requires urgent attention.

About Human Trafficking in Turkmenistan

Unfortunately, Turkmenistan does not completely satisfy the minimum requirements to eliminate the practice of human trafficking. As such, the U.S. Department of State designates Turkmenistan a Tier 3 country in 2021. According to the U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking, Turkmenistan is among the 22 worst countries in the world for human trafficking. There is no official data regarding the exact number of human trafficking cases in Turkmenistan, but according to the report, trafficking hotlines received close to 8,000 calls from victims in 2019. However, according to Turkmenistan’s government, there were no “formally identified” human trafficking victims that year.

To combat human trafficking in Turkmenistan, the government has tried to solve the problem by implementing a national action plan that runs from 2020 to 2022. This action plan involves the government’s participation in anti-trafficking awareness campaigns while collaborating with international organizations to fight human trafficking within the country.

Preventative Measures

Most of the measures that the state carried out in cooperation with other NGOs have not led to significant improvements in the human trafficking situation. These measures have not stopped the use of forced labor force during the cotton harvest or in public works. Turkmenistan wished to create an anti-human trafficking committee that has not come to fruition yet. While the country managed to reduce some areas of human trafficking, the demand for forced labor still exists.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Turkmenistan government have carried out several campaigns in schools to raise awareness of human trafficking in the nation. Several organizations came together to assess the risk of human trafficking within the country. In addition, these organizations have also made efforts to monitor trafficking.

Measures to Protect Victims

The Turkmenistan government has been training officials in trafficking prevention and victim identification to ensure quicker and more efficient responses to incidents of trafficking. In addition, the government has allocated resources with the idea of eliminating the mobilization of children and adults for forced labor in the annual cotton harvest. The government has also launched several awareness campaigns to eliminate forced labor in other sectors.

Furthermore, the government funded the construction of shelters for trafficking victims, which the International Organization of Migration (IOM) operates. Although these measures have received several criticisms from international organizations for a lack of impact, the measures have served as a resource for local reintegration and job placement. In addition, the government and several NGOs put procedures in place to increase the efficacy and speed of victim identification.

How Victims Can Rebuild Their Lives

For victims, overcoming the trauma of human trafficking requires a lot of public support. Beginning in 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been cooperating with the IOM and other local NGOs to reintegrate victims of human trafficking back into Turkmenistan society through an organization called Yenme. To achieve this, Yenme takes on a comprehensive approach to social reintegration by providing psychological and medical support to the victims along with legal assistance. This helps victims to rebuild their lives with optimism and hope. Data shows that 90% of victims who receive this aid end up becoming self-employed. In addition, victims attend workshops to acquire new skills that are useful in their future work.

Looking Ahead

Even with the new measures that Turkmenistan’s government implemented and the cooperation with various international organizations and local NGOs, ongoing commitments of time and effort are necessary to alleviate human trafficking. Hopefully, through the continued work of Turkmenistan’s government and NGOs, human trafficking in Turkmenistan will one day be a matter of the past.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr