Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president looked concerned and irritated. Speaking at a press conference after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to Berlin, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov had just presented a long and glowing picture of his Central Asian country.
Then the first question from a German journalist came. It was about human rights in Turkmenistan – one issue he had not addressed. Another lengthy speech ensued, on how Turkmenistan’s laws are based on United Nations human rights standards – but also, of course, “reflect national traditions.” And he added his own rhetorical question: “Tell me which other country gives its citizens gas and electricity for free?”