Still nuts after 5,000 years
January 8, 2004
Sunday night on '60 Minutes' they
had a segment on Turkmenistan. I don't know if you had a chance
to watch it. It was hilarious!
You know, there's this guy called Sapar Murat Niyazov,
who is the president of this God-forsaken country which happens
to be Iran's
Tovarich Niyazov was Turkmenistan's Communist party
chief under the Soviets, and after their collapse in the early
1990's, he managed
to maintain his position by appointing himself president of Turkmenistan.
Obviously, his term runs for life, and he is already grooming little
Niyazovs to take over the post after his demise.
He calls himself Turkmenbashi, which I guess means
'chief of all Turkmens'. He has erected gold statues of himself
all over the
country, and his likeness adorns every street in every city. One
of his gold statues in the capital, Ashg- Abat, is on a rotating
platform so that Niyazov's outstretched arm always point to the
He has recently started renaming the months of the
Gregorian Calendar. So far, January has been renamed 'Turkmenbashi'
and April is now
called 'Gorbansoltan' named after Niyazov's beloved mother!
Folks, I am not making this up!
True to the style of all great dictators, Niyazov
has written a book too. Its called 'Ruh-nama'. It is
the spiritual and behavioral guidebook for all the good citizens
of Turkmenistan. Pages of this
book are read aloud at public squares every night.
Turkmenistan sits atop one of world's largest reserves
of natural gas, yet 70% of the population live below poverty. They
highest infant mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy among
all ex-Soviet states.
Afghanistan's prolific poppy growers love to transit
their illicit crops through Turkmenistan. Corrupt Turkmen officials
Niyazov) are paid huge by the narco-traffickers to look the other
way while the drugs make the transit through Turkmenistan to reach
the markets in Europe and beyond.
Oh, and one more thing. Turkmenistan's so-called
parliament is called 'Khalgh Maslahaty'. Sounds familiar, doesn't
It seems to me that our beloved Iranian Plateau,
bounded by Mesopotamia to the southwest, Transoxiania to the northeast,
Indus Valley to
the southeast, and the Caucuses to the northwest, has produced
and still produces the garden variety of super-lunatic rulers.
There must be something in the air or maybe in the soil that causes
clowns like Saddam, Molla Omar, Trkmenbashi, etc. to surface and
usurp power and rule with impunity.
There has been 5000 years of continuous civilization
in our neck of the woods and yet we manage to endure ridiculous
seem to have jumped out of some grotesque comic book somewhere.
I am reminded of a scene in an old Woody Allen's Bananas.
After a coup d'etat in a fictional South/Central American country,
the junta leader is addressing the public and decreeing the new
laws of the land:
"From now on everybody under the age of 25 will
be declared 25 years old. All citizens must wear their
underwear over their clothes so that we may check
Cleanliness of your undergarments. And, from now on the official language of
this republic will be Swedish!"
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