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Monday, July 26, 2004

Turkmenistan: Turkmen president waxes lyrical

Turkmen president waxes lyrical
Saparmurat Niyazov (from Turkmen TV)
President Niyazov likes to keep a close eye on his people
The leader of Turkmenistan has shown another side to his talents - by revealing himself as a poet.

President Saparmurat Niyavoz used a recent public holiday to regale the nation with a work of his own - The New Turkmen Spirit.

Mr Niyazov, whose initiatives include renaming months of the year after himself, left no doubt about the spirit's identity: him.

The poem expresses his devotion to the nation, but warns against dissent.

'Saviour'

"I am the Turkmen spirit, reborn to bring you a golden age," the poem begins.

It goes on to echo a favourite theme of Mr Niyazov, who likes to be known as Turkmenbashi, or leader of the Turkmen - that he protects and sacrifices himself for his people.

"I do not spare myself for you, for I am devoted to you all," he promises, adding, "I am your saviour."

The president has shown his devotion to the smallest detail of his people's lives.

Mr Niyazov banned smoking in public places after he was ordered to give up the habit following heart surgery in 1997.

Earlier this year, he passed a decree forbidding young men to wear long hair or beards, and ordered a young woman to have her gold teeth replaced with white ones.

The promise to be his people's saviour applies only to those who "are still faithful to me".

"While cherishing my allies, I am desperate to fight my enemies," Mr Niyazov declares.

This may be no idle boast.

Following an alleged assassination attempt in November 2002, Mr Niyazov launched a crackdown in which more than 40 opposition activists, including a former foreign minister, were jailed.

"My sight is sharp - I see everything," warns the leader, who earlier this year ordered the government to intensify video surveillance to "let us know if a fly quietly buzzes past".

Or, in the words of the poem: "If you are honest in your deeds, I see this; if you commit wrongdoing, I see that too."

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