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New Life as the Citizens of Turkmenistan

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – 25 stateless persons received passports of Turkmenistan during the festive ceremony arranged by the Government of Turkmenistan on 20 February 2017.   These 25 individuals are a part of a group of 1,381 persons who received Turkmen citizenship in line with the Presidential Decree issued on 12 December 2016 during the celebrations of the International Day of Neutrality.  The Regional Representative/ Regional Coordinator of UNHCR for Central Asia, Ms. Yasuko Oda, participated at the ceremony by handing the passports to the newly naturalized stateless persons.

The new citizens of Turkmenistan were moved to tears while holding their new passports.  This is a start of a new life.   They know what it means to have no nationality, to be “stateless”. 

"To be stateless is like you don't exist, you simply don't exist. You live in a parallel world with no proof of your identity" –stated one of the stateless persons.

For all human beings, not having an official identity, no birth certificate, no registration, no ID card, no Passport, is a tremendous stress and insecurity of life. People need to feel safe and secure. Without a nationality a person cannot register to vote in the country in which they are living, cannot apply for a travel document and cannot register to marry. Often, even the most basic of rights – the rights to education, medical care and employment – are denied to individuals who cannot prove the link of nationality with a country.

On 20 February, 2017 the Government of Turkmenistan also held a Round Table discussion,  “Successful Experience of Turkmenistan on Reduction of Statelessness”, where UNHCR was cordially invited to. The round-table was chaired by Mr. Vepa Khadjiev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Representatives of line Ministries, Diplomatic missions and UN Agencies attended the round-table meeting.  UNHCR delivered a key note speech, highlighting the positive efforts and commitment of the Government of Turkmenistan to prevent and reduce statelessness. In addition, UNHCR presented the global challenges of statelessness and the steps taken by Turkmenistan to reduce statelessness. The Government of Turkmenistan reiterated their dedication to continue the fruitful collaboration with UNHCR and to further reduce statelessness.

Today statelessness is a global problem, as more than 10 million people worldwide are living without nationality and are unable to exercise their basic human rights.    On the territory of Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) the number of such citizens is estimated to reach more than 140,000 persons.

 It is hoped that Turkmenistan will be the model country of the “#IBELONG campaign to end statelessness by 2024, by annually granting citizenship and prevent statelessness through legislation in conformity with international standards.