TURKMENISTAN: Pregnant Mother To Be Deported.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 23 July 2001

Two Baptist women – one of them heavily pregnant – have been told to leave Turkmenistan along with their nine children, in the wake of their husbands’ deportation from the country. Nadezhda Potolova is expecting her fourth child in August but Keston News Service has learnt that on 16 July she and Valentina Kalataevskaya - whose husbands were deported for their religious activity at the end of June - were told by Ziyad Ishchanov of the KNB (former KGB) that if they and their children have not left the country by 15 August, the authorities will send soldiers to load them and their possessions into vehicles and deport them.

`Ishchanov did not present any written decision about this,' local Baptists wrote in an 18 July statement passed to Keston by the German-based Friedensstimme Mission. `He simply said they are being deported for activity forbidden in Turkmenistan.'

Yevgeny Potolov, who is from Russia, and Vyacheslav Kalataevsky, who is from Ukraine and a father of seven (one of whom has already left home), had been living with their families in the Caspian port city of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk). They were seized on 26 June while travelling from Turkmenbashi to a funeral in the town of Balkanabad (formerly Nebit-Dag) 155 kilometres (95 miles) to the south-west (see KNS 28 June 2001).

Ishchanov, the officer who arrested them, told them their residence permits had been cancelled with effect from 21 June and that they would be deported on 27 June on the orders of the city's khyakim (administrator). They were subsequently deported across the border to the town of Novy Uzen in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

On 26 and 27 June, Potolova and Kalataevskaya tried to establish why their husbands had been detained and ordered deported. A. Orazov, an aide to the khyakim, told them he knew nothing of the order, the wives reported. The khyakim was away on both days. Nuri Khaidarov, the duty officer at the local police station, referred the two women to the deputy head of police, K. Berdyev, but he told them he had nothing to do with deportation cases and referred them back to the duty officer.

`Ishchanov sent a message via the police duty officers that we should bring four million manats [775 US dollars at the official exchange rate, less at the street rate] for the deportation of our husbands from the country,' Potolova and Kalataevskaya declared in a 27 June complaint to Turkmenistan's procurator general Kurbanbibi Atadjanova.

The two families belong to a congregation affiliated with the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, a group uniting congregations in many former Soviet republics. Although Keston has been unable to verify the report of the threat to deport the families of Potolov and Kalataevsky independently, reports distributed through the Council of Churches have a long track record of reliability.

Six Baptist families active in local congregations of the Council of Churches are known to have been deported from Turkmenistan in the past few years despite having legal residence in the country (see KNS 26 May 2000). All were Russian or Ukrainian citizens. Hundreds of foreign citizens active with other faiths - including members of other Protestant churches, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees - have also been deported. (END)