(C.Coetzer/T.Sjogren) Long Riders’ Guild Founder, CuChullaine O’Reilly, sent over news about the imprisonment and serious deteriorating health condition of a celebrated equestrian explorer, Turkmen, Geldy Kyarizov.
In 1988, Geldy rode 4,300 kilometres from Ashgabat to Moscow. The journey took him across Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and required him to ride 360 kilometres across a waterless desert. Kyarizov is one of the world's leading experts on Akhal Teke horses and his legendary stallion, Yanardag, appears on the national emblem of Turkmenistan.
Kyarizov is currently under house arrest, endures harassment and needs urgent medical help.
According to Amnesty International, Geldy Kyarizov was detained by the National Security Services in Turkmenistan in January 2002. On March 4 that year, Kyarizov had a heart attack. Six days later he had to be carried into the court room to stand trial on charges of horse theft, horses which in fact belonged to him, they stated. Although the court found that Geldy Kyarizov was not guilty of theft, he was nevertheless sentenced to six years imprisonment after an unfair trial in April 2002 on charges of abuse of office and negligence.
Amnesty International believes that the charges were politically motivated as Geldy Kyarizov had fallen out of favour with former President Niyazov. Some sources say Geldy vocally opposed that the purity of the Akhal Teke horses were intentionally diluted by inter-breeding the Turkmen horses with foreign Thoroughbreds, of which he had uncovered evidence.
Reportedly, during his time in prison, Kyarizov’s family were harassed and frequently subjected to racial insults because his wife, Julia Serebryannik, is Jewish.
CuChullaine O’Reilly told Explorersweb, despite Kyarizov's journey, expertise and international reputation, he was imprisoned in the Ovadan Depe concentration camp. "This infamous prison has been compared to a medieval torture chamber and only a handful of prisoners have ever lived to tell their tale. Geldy, a once healthy horseman, survived years in Ovadan Depe but emerged in broken health and weighing only a hundred pounds.”
Ovadan Depe Prison
The Ovadan Depe Prison practices abuse bordering on sadism in modern Turkmenistan, says this Human Rights watchdog report from September 2014. Located in the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan, roughly 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Ashgabat, the prison was designed specifically to break the political prisoners it contains.
Personal accounts with few who survived and then fled the country speak of scorching desert summers in over-crowded, mosquito-infested cells with covered windows, absolute silence enforced, and some prisoners required to march on the spot all day in temperatures spiking to 50 degrees Celcius (122 F). One prisoner said food was wheat porridge and pumpkin, and never any meat.
Beatings are a regular occurrence, of prisoners forced to strip, squat and being struck until unable to walk back to their cells.
Desert winters can be bitter with temperatures plunging to -20C (-4F). Solitary confinement cells are well-like cylinders at which bottom a prisoner is placed for days on end. Some prisoners are held in completely blacked-out cells serving sentences up to 25 years, totally isolated from other humans, "left only to scream out their existence", witnesses said.
Authorities seized horses
Turkmenistan was ruled by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov until his death in 2006. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was elected president in 2007. Kyarizov was included in the October 2007 presidential pardon and released from prison but has been subjected to constant surveillance and harassment by the Turkmenistani authorities ever since.
In violation of the country's own laws, Geldy, his wife, young daughter, and sister-in-law, are being held under house arrest and endure constant harassment by the secret police.
A horse breeder and former director of state-run Association Turkmen Atlary (“Turkmen Horses”), Geldy Kyarizov was instructed by the authorities to no longer engage in horse breeding and told to write a statement to this effect, reported Amnesty International in 2014. State officials had started to demolish Kyarizov's stud farm from August 2006. The horses from the stud farm were seized by the state in 2010.
In October 2013 he and his wife were made to sign another paper stating that he may not approach horses again.
No medical help
The Long Rider's health is [currently] so bad that he is in desperate need of medical attention which is being denied to him by the Turkmen authorities. Amnesty International, the United Nations and The UK government have all sought Geldy's release. Each request has been ignored. The Russian government issued visas to the Kyarizov family so that Geldy could receive badly needed medical attention, but the family was denied the right to travel.
Kyarizov has been inducted into The Long Riders’ Guild as first modern Turkmen Long Rider. He also became a first Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
"Yet after weeks of intense research, and following a lengthy exchange of emails with Geldy's son, who has managed to escape to the USA, it became clear that if the Guild denounced the Turkmen government the authorities would almost certainly seek revenge against the Kyarizov family,” CuChullaine added.
"Consequently we have announced that Geldy has been named as a Long Rider Fellow, in the hope that these two honours will help bring pressure on the Turkmen government to release the family.”
Urging the release
Gill Suttle, an English equestrian traveller who rode through Syria, alerted The Guild to Geldy's plight and has published photos and information about the case. A petition asking the Turkmen President to let Kyarizov on his family leave, can be signed here.
CuChullaine stated that Geldy has been honoured by the Long Riders’ Guild and the Royal Geographical Society. "Moreover, the Long Riders’ Guild joins Amnesty International, the United Nations and Her Majesty’s government in urging the release of Geldy Kyarizov and his family."
According to Human Rights Watch, "Turkmenistan remains one of the world’s most repressive countries. The country is virtually closed to independent scrutiny, media and religious freedoms are subject to draconian restrictions, and human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal". President Berdymukhamedov promotes a personality cult in which he, his relatives, and associates enjoy unlimited power and total control over all aspects of public life. Courtesy Wikipedia
Ashgabat, the capital of energy-rich Turkmenistan, has been recognized by Guinness World Records as having the world's highest density of buildings made from white marble. According to a report by Amnesty International, Turkmen citizens are deprived of basic human rights such as freedom of movement and freedom of the press, while the political opposition is routinely harassed, political freedom is limited, and elections are anything but free and fair.
CuChullaine O’Reilly is the Founder of the Long Riders’ Guild, the world’s international association of equestrian explorers. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Explorers’ Club and a Member of the Adventurers’ Club. Author of "Khyber Knights,” he is currently completing the “Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration”, the most comprehensive equestrian exploration guide ever written. More than a hundred of the most extraordinary Long Riders are also Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society.
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