Turkmenistan’s new ruler lashes out after cockroach incident

ANDRIY MOSIENKO/AFP/Getty Images Nearly everybody hates cockroaches. But apparently none more so than Turkmenistan’s post-Turkmenbashi (Saparmurat Niyazov) president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. The Guardian reports: For the viewers of Turkmenistan’s popular nightly news programme, Vatan, it was another routine bulletin. But as the newsreader began the 9pm broadcast, viewers across the central Asian country spotted something unusual ...

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596336_turkmenistan_732541042.jpg

ANDRIY MOSIENKO/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly everybody hates cockroaches. But apparently none more so than Turkmenistan's post-Turkmenbashi (Saparmurat Niyazov) president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. The Guardian reports:

For the viewers of Turkmenistan's popular nightly news programme, Vatan, it was another routine bulletin. But as the newsreader began the 9pm broadcast, viewers across the central Asian country spotted something unusual crawling across the studio table: a large brown cockroach.

ANDRIY MOSIENKO/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly everybody hates cockroaches. But apparently none more so than Turkmenistan’s post-Turkmenbashi (Saparmurat Niyazov) president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. The Guardian reports:

For the viewers of Turkmenistan’s popular nightly news programme, Vatan, it was another routine bulletin. But as the newsreader began the 9pm broadcast, viewers across the central Asian country spotted something unusual crawling across the studio table: a large brown cockroach.

The cockroach managed to complete a whole lap of the desk, apparently undetected, before disappearing. The programme, complete with cockroach, was repeated at 11pm that night. …

[T]he consequences of this particular cockroach’s impromptu five minutes of fame were immediate and severe.

The country’s president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, took news of the insect so badly that he responded by firing no fewer than 30 workers from the main state TV channel, the news website Kronika Turkmenistan reported yesterday.

Those fired included journalists, directors, camera operators, and technical staff.

President Berdymukhamedov has been praised for his efforts at ending Turkmenistan’s isolation from the international community, and for reversing a number of Turkmenbashi’s quirky laws, which include banning opera performances and disallowing foreign languages in school curriculum.

But cockroaches, it seems, warrant special measures. “Berdymukhamedov’s apparent dislike of cockroaches may have something to do with his previous career as a dentist,” the Guardian‘s Luke Harding speculates. Even so, Berdymukhamedov’s extreme reaction suggests that Turkmenistan’s days of mercurial leadership may not be over just yet.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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