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August 24, 2005

End for non-singing singers of Turkmenistan

Daily Telegraph (UK):

In recent years many things have irked Turkmenbashi the Great, as Turkmenistan's erratic president-for-life Sap-armurat Niyazov is officially known. Opera and ballet have been outlawed as "unnecessary" while gold fillings and long hair are similarly prohibited.

Though relieved that the sun no longer glints off the teeth of the singers who perform in his honour, the president was reportedly furious to find that they were not singing at all, but merely mouthing the words. This week he took action, banning the playing of recorded music in all public places in an effort to stamp out the scourge. "One can see these talentless old singers lip-synching to songs," he said at a cabinet meeting aired on state television. He then banned lip-synching and recorded music at public events, in restaurants and at private parties.

Mr Niyazov's latest whim comes days after he issued a proclamation forbidding female news presenters and reporters from wearing make-up and dying their hair. In power for 13 years, Mr Niyazov has turned his country into one of the most autocratic in the world, creating a powerful personality cult and forbidding all opposition. Even those closest to him live in fear. In the past month he has sacked a third of his cabinet. Last week he docked three month's pay off his education minister, blaming him for falling standards in schools.

Calls from human rights groups for the isolation of Turkmenistan have only been heeded half-heartedly, critics say, because it holds the world's fifth-largest oil reserves. On Monday, Mr Niyazov met Gen John Abizaid, the chief of US Central Command, but the US embassy in the capital Ashgabat did not divulge whether they talked about music.

Posted by acapnews at August 24, 2005 9:42 PM