|World Watch List Rank||World Watch List Score|
|President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow||5.8 million | 69,800 Christians|
|WWL Rank in 2018||Persecution Level|
|19||Very High Persecution|
During the days of the Soviet Union, atheism was enforced by the state. Religion is still viewed with suspicion and distrust, and the church is heavily regulated. Christians are often regarded as followers of an alien sect that needs to be controlled, and even completely eradicated.
There is a law that forbids worship in private homes and bans all religious activity by unregistered organisations. Christians are constantly monitored and subject to threats, police raids, the confiscation of Christian materials, fines and imprisonment.
Most Turkmens identify as Muslim. Converting from Islam to Christianity is seen as dishonourable to one’s family, and can lead to violent persecution and rejection. Children are usually isolated and kept from having any fellowship with others. Christian women living in conservative Muslim areas can even be kidnapped and forced to marry Muslim men.
Karina*, a Turkmen teacher, became a Christian when her sister shared the gospel with her. She began reading the Bible and even translating some materials into Turkmen.
But the police started to monitor her. One day she was called in for a meeting at work, and when she arrived, she was met by the police. They told her to renounce her faith. She refused.
A few days later, her boss asked her to renounce her faith again. When she refused again, Karina was forced to write a letter of resignation. She was unmarried, and had no unemployment benefits. What would the future hold for her?
In Turkmenistan's repressive post-Communist regime, Christians are constantly under surveillance by different state organisations - including secret police - and are reported to have been victims of raids, fines, imprisonment and arbitrary detainment, threats, harassment and sexual attacks.Traditional churches may be monitored, youth programmes are not allowed, and non-traditional Protestant communities suffer from threats and raids (especially when the churches have not been registered).
But Christian converts from Islam bear the brunt of the persecution. In conservative Muslim-majority communities, believers from Muslim backgrounds (BMBs) bring shame on their families, and face being divorced, disinherited or losing their jobs. Female BMBs run the risk of being kidnapped and married off to Muslim men. And many Christian children and young people are ridiculed and excluded from higher education because of their faith.
Increased nationalism and the President's role of providing the country's 'spiritual guidance' means there will be little change for Christians in this repressive state. Let's pray that the courageous witness of Christians like Karina will one day guide the people of Turkmenistan to Jesus.
Open Doors provides immediate aid to Central Asian believers when they are placed in prison, excluded them from families and communities, and deprived of livelihood and employment because of their faith in Christ. We also strengthen the persecuted church in Central Asia through: