IFLA Blasts Turkmenistan Library Closings

Article excerpt

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) called on the government of Turkmenistan April 29 to rescind an order by President Saparmurat Niyazov to close the country's libraries. The controversial leader declared that libraries are pointless because villagers don't read, the Prima news agency reported February 11. "Nobody reads books, people don't go to libraries," he concluded. "Central and student libraries will remain; the remainder need to close." Niyazov has also closed down all hospitals outside the capital of Ashgabat, as well as all national parks.

Calling the order "one of the most profound onslaughts on intellectual freedom rights we have witnessed in many years," IFLA President Kay Raseroka said the action is keeping the "Turkmen population in isolation and ignorance." IFLA is urging the government to reopen and restock the libraries, provide free internet access, and offer unrestricted access to information in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The IFLA press release noted that the Turkmen National Library escaped closure, but the Open Society Institute in Budapest has confirmed the closure of libraries in the Dashoguz province. …