2006.12.26: December 26, 2006: Headlines: COS - Turkmenistan: Politics: Foreign Relations: Henderson Gleaner: RPCV Cennet Kocakulah hopeful for Turkmenistan's future after death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president-for-life

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Turkmenistan: Peace Corps Turkmenistan : The Peace Corps in Turkmenistan: 2006.12.26: December 26, 2006: Headlines: COS - Turkmenistan: Politics: Foreign Relations: Henderson Gleaner: RPCV Cennet Kocakulah hopeful for Turkmenistan's future after death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president-for-life

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RPCV Cennet Kocakulah hopeful for Turkmenistan's future after death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president-for-life

RPCV Cennet Kocakulah hopeful for Turkmenistan's future after death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president-for-life

The news barely registered in Evansville: Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president-for-life of Turkmenistan, had died and left no successor. But the death of Niyazov, who was buried Sunday in the mostly poor Central Asian nation he had ruled for two decades, rocked 24-year-old Evansville resident Cennet Kocakulah. She hopes politicians in the cloistered former Soviet republic and its 5 million residents will react to the death of the only leader they had ever known by making Turkmenistan a true democracy. But she is not optimistic it will happen. "There's no opposition in Turkmenistan now that's allowed," said Kocakulah, a 2004 graduate of the University of Chicago. "I hope they will now allow the opposition back into the country and hold free elections." Kocakulah said radio and TV outlets are state-controlled and opposition Web sites are blocked. "It's a long shot that they would even let in international observers."

RPCV Cennet Kocakulah hopeful for Turkmenistan's future after death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president-for-life

Ex-Peace Corps volunteer hopeful for Turkmenistan's future

By THOMAS B. LANGHORNE
Courier & Press staff writer 464-7432 or langhornet@courierpress.com

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The news barely registered in Evansville: Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president-for-life of Turkmenistan, had died and left no successor.

But the death of Niyazov, who was buried Sunday in the mostly poor Central Asian nation he had ruled for two decades, rocked 24-year-old Evansville resident Cennet Kocakulah.

Kocakulah, daughter of University of Southern Indiana accounting professor Mehmet C. Kocakulah, returned only last month from a 2½-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkmenistan.

She hopes politicians in the cloistered former Soviet republic and its 5 million residents will react to the death of the only leader they had ever known by making Turkmenistan a true democracy. But she is not optimistic it will happen.

"There's no opposition in Turkmenistan now that's allowed," said Kocakulah, a 2004 graduate of the University of Chicago. "I hope they will now allow the opposition back into the country and hold free elections."

Opponents of Niyazov's regime are in hiding throughout Europe and could easily return, Kocakulah said. She said past elections in Turkmenistan were shams in which Niyazov collected outlandish 99 percent and 100 percent majorities.

"It is a democracy with a constitution and an elected parliament," she said in frustration. "They should be having real elections there now.

"But I don't know if there are people there who are willing to speak out about it. There's a history of people speaking out, and they kind of disappear. Or they lose their job or their salary for a few months, get demoted."

Niyazov's book of musings was required reading for students, and his regime propagated the notion that studying it was a way to get to heaven.

"Privately, Turkmen would say they didn't like having to read his book all the time, and there were always the same things on TV and lots of things," said Kocakulah, a teacher of English for much of her time in Turkmenistan.

But ordinary Turkmen are too busy scraping by to concern themselves with politics, she said. "They would say, 'At least we have peace here.' More than one person said that. (Picking a successor to Niyazov) will be a struggle among the people at the top that no one will see because there is no international media in Turkmenistan."

Kocakulah said radio and TV outlets are state-controlled and opposition Web sites are blocked. "It's a long shot that they would even let in international observers."

Kocakulah said she hopes her future includes law school. "I want to work with nongovernmental agencies in Central Asia," she said.




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Headlines: December, 2006; Peace Corps Turkmenistan; Directory of Turkmenistan RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Turkmenistan RPCVs; Politics; Foreign Relations





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Story Source: Henderson Gleaner

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Turkmenistan; Politics; Foreign Relations

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