Meet Turkmenistan's "Modern" Dictator

He has many hobbies such as driving white race cars, riding horses, rapping, and leading one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Meet Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow — the president of Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan's "modern" dictator

Gurbanguly Mälikguly ogly Berdimuhamedow is a Turkmen politician who has served as the President of Turkmenistan since February 2007. Berdimuhamedow, a dentist by profession, served in the government under President Saparmurat Niyazov as Minister of Health beginning in 1997 and as Vice-President beginning in 2001. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has always been an authoritarian eccentric, but recently his attempts to curry public favor have ventured into the bizarre.

While Berdimuhamedow has governed the isolated country for the past 12 years, it seems 2019 is the year he’s determined to set himself on the global stage as a cult of personality figure to rival North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Berdimuhamedow’s insistence that he’s a great leader of a mighty and prosperous nation, his citizens think otherwise—the regime is accused of a host of egregious human rights violations. A recent census has revealed over a third of the population, that’s 2 million Turkmens, have fled the country. This has left Berdimuhamedow on the defensive and it’s presenting in strange and dangerous ways. In May, police were instructed to find evidence that locals were using newspaper as toilet paper—not out of concern for the basic sanitation needs of his citizens, but of worry that images of himself were being soiled.

In September 2016, the Turkmenistan Parliament abolished term limits for the presidency, which allowed Berdimuhamedow to run for a third term. In July 2018, he appeared in a rap video with his grandson. He had previously lifted weights on camera, and also acted as DJ. By decree of Berdymuhamedov in January 2019, the government will gradually end state funding of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan; it will be phased out in three years. In August 4, 2019, after a weeks-long disappearance that sparked rumors of his death, Berdimuhamedov appeared on state TV doing doughnuts in rally car around the “Hell's Gate" to prove he's not dead. In the meantime, pension payments haven’t been issued for May and June and the on-going economic crisis is causing hour-long queues at ATMs. Puppies and quirky horse videos won’t change that. His son, second in command, will most likely succeed him.