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article imageTurkmenistan bans alcohol ahead of flagship sporting event

By AFP     Aug 19, 2017 in Lifestyle

Reclusive Turkmenistan has banned sales of alcohol until October to ensure "public order" ahead of a key sporting event the country is hosting next month, an official in the trade ministry told AFP Saturday.

The ban is related to the hosting of the Asian Games in the second half of September, the official who requested anonymity explained in a telephone conversation.

"The main goal of the ban is to ensure peace and public order in the country in connection with the strengthened regime introduced by law enforcement agencies from August 17," the source added.

An AFP correspondent walked past a number of liquor stores in the white marble-clad capital Ashgabat and found them all to be closed.

Energy-rich Turkmenistan is hosting the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games from September 17 to September 27. The event has become a highlight of state propaganda in the repressive Central Asian country and strongman President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been shown playing a central role in preparations.

On Thursday the government announced the unusual step of closing land borders ahead of the games, while a ban on smoking during the event was already in place.

Despite Berdymukhamedov officially encouraging belt-tightening as the country reels from an economic crisis brought on by low gas prices, the government has spent heavily on infrastructure connected to the games.

Earlier this month Human Rights Watch and the Vienna-based Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights urged the Olympic Council of Asia to remind Turkmenistan of its rights obligations amid what appears to be a crackdown on the country's scattering of independent journalists.

According to the two groups female journalist Soltan Achilova, who works for the US-funded RFE/RL agency, has faced verbal and physical intimidation in recent months from unknown men while one of her colleagues was jailed on bogus narcotics charges in 2015.

Both Berdymukhamedov and his erratic predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov are honoured by golden monuments in a country whose isolation and leadership cults have regularly drawn comparisons with North Korea.

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