The golden statue of the Alabai. Photo: Altyn Asyr
Turkmenistan’s personality cult-exuding leader has unveiled a giant golden statue of his favourite dog breed.The gold leaf-covered statue, which features a wraparound LED screen showing footage of puppies, is dedicated to the Alabai dog, a beloved local variety of the Central Asian shepherd dog.President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov unveiled the statue in a residential area reserved for civil servants in the capital, Ashgabat, this week.
Berdymukhamedov, president since 2007, has previous form in this area. Last year he published a book about the Alabai, and in 2015 unveiled a giant golden statue of himself on horseback.
However, this gold-flecked self-aggrandising is not exactly justified: Turkmenistan has one of the worst human rights records of any country in the world – only North Korea is ranked below it on Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index.The country also claims, totally improbably, not to have recorded a single case of the coronavirus this year, despite neighbouring Iran having almost 730,000 cases.The World Health Organisation has previously warned Turkmenistan that it needed to step up its preparedness for outbreaks. John Hopkins University ranks the country 147th out of 156 in terms of its ability to respond to an epidemic, and Berdymukhamedov has even gone as far as banning doctors from saying the word “coronavirus.”But… at least they’ve got this statue of a good boy.