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2007-03-05 12:07:00
Embassy Ashgabat
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DE RUEHAH #0257/01 0641207
R 051207Z MAR 07
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASHGABAT 000257 




E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) Post outreach in January 2007 took place in an atmosphere of
uncertainty because of the recent death of President Saparmurat
Niyazov. In addition to regular post programming and post's annual
Alumni Reunion, post hosted a number of official visits by U.S.
Government officials, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
for South and Central Asia Evan Feigenbaum, post's Information
Resources Officer Mary Nell Bryant, and an interagency assistance
delegation -- nearly all of whom took part in post outreach
activities [reftels A,B]. End Summary.

Information Resources Officer Meets with Alumni, Government


2. (U) Regional Information Resource Officer Mary Nell Bryant
jump-started talks between the assistance delegation and the
Ministry of Culture with her January 23 presentation on library
partnerships at the National Library. In the first meeting between
post and the library's new director, Bryant introduced 20 Library
staff to the potential of bi-national and community level library
partnerships to help develop libraries as knowledge as well as
community centers. Using locally relevant examples, Bryant showed
how libraries can partner with health organizations, businesses,
museums and media to expand their services and broaden their reach;
she also suggested suitable U.S. libraries for partnership with
Turkmenistan. The National Librarian spoke on the background and
collections of the library and its plans for relocation to the huge
new National Cultural Center. IRC Assistant Azat Myradov presented
the Library with a collection of materials from the American Library
Association's Story Lines America program. The Library staff's
follow up questions revealed an enthusiastic interest in Bryant's
ideas. The PAO offered technical cooperation in Internet training
(the new Center is slated to have 118 public access terminals), and
encouraged the Director to think about possible future International
Visitor Leadership Programs for herself or Library staff. The event
helped strengthen the existing ties with the National Library, at a
key time of government transition in Turkmenistan, and provided
several leads for follow up contact with the new Cultural Center.

4. (U) During her visit to Turkmenistan, Bryant also visited the
Mary and Turkmenabat American Corners. In Turkmenabat, the site of
ongoing and significant harassment of Corner patrons and staff by
local authorities, Bryant and Public Affairs Officer Andrew Paul met
with the Head of the Lebap Region Education Department and two
representatives of the Lebap Region governor's office in order to
encourage a new cooperative relationship between the American Corner

and local government, much as the U.S. policy has looked at "turning
the page" in its relationship with Turkmenistan as a whole.

5. (U) Bryant used her experiences at the Corners to develop her
presentation at the U.S. Government-sponsored Alumni Reunion held
27-28 January in Ashgabat (septel). There she gave a presentation
to over 100 alumni on how to use the Information Resources Center
and the American Corners to conduct research for alumni programming
and grants development, and to help alumni achieve academic and
professional development goals. Many Reunion participants did not
know the extent of the services available through the American
Corners -- because post cannot advertise freely in Turkmenistan.
This Reunion, which has become almost an annual event in
Turkmenistan, emphasized the value of peer mentoring and community
initiatives, while still revisiting such goals as the registration
of a national alumni association.

"Warm Springs" Engages Local Youth on Politics, Religion, and the
Power of Will


6. (U) "Without legs he was able to stand up for his country,"
commented one of the 13 viewers of the documentary "Warm Springs,"
screened at the Public Affairs Section on January 30. In a
post-film discussion moderated by English Language Fellow John Mark
King, viewers highlighted Roosevelt's physical and spiritual
endurance and faith in himself. The film also spurred participants
to reflect on Turkmenistan's first ever multi-candidate presidential
election campaign (the election occurred February 11) as well as
presidential elections in the United States. One viewer noted that
Roosevelt's comment, "the only thing we have to fear is fear
itself," reminded him of the Prophet Mohammed's teaching that fear
was the enemy. Post's movie afternoons at the Public Affairs
Section -- of which there are up to 10 each month -- provide a
consistent and non-threatening atmosphere for discussions considered
too risque for most public venues.

Turkmenistan FLEX Alumni Mark Martin Luther King Day


ASHGABAT 00000257 002 OF 003

7. (U) Recent FLEX Alumni in Turkmenbashy and Mary held events to
commemorate Martin Luther King Day on January 15. Twenty Mary
American Corner visitors came to hear a presentation on the Civil
Rights Movement and participate in a discussion about the Movement
and about the life of Dr. King. The FLEX alumna organizing the
event also read aloud Dr. King's "I have a Dream" speech, with
participants reading along, in English, on handouts. A Turkmenbashy
FLEX alumna presented the history behind Martin Luther King day to
seven local youth at the city's polyclinic, where many of the
American Corner activities have been taking place. Her presentation
focused on the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and other social
action campaigns that defined the Civil Rights Movement. FLEX
alumni regularly give presentations at the American Corners to
commemorate U.S. holidays and national figures, which serve as a
historical-cultural lesson for local youth but also give the alumni
and their peers a chance to practice their English.

Mary American Corner Hosts Gender, U.S. Politics Discussions



8. (U) On January 19, three Mary FLEX alumni hosted a seminar on
"Women's Roles in Turkmenistan," for 27 visitors to the American
Corner. The seminar began with a review of historically significant
Turkmen women and continued with a discussion on gender issues in
Turkmenistan. Alumni described how their attitudes toward gender
issues changed after living in the United States, and how
differently gender is perceived in America. One of the alumni
involved in organizing the seminar also holds a regular U.S.
Government class at the Corner, where he incorporated discussion
from the seminar. The alumnus typically researches a topic of U.S.
Government prior to the class, makes handouts on the topic and then
leads a class and discussion. On January 24 the alumnus focused on
the U.S. legislative process, and explained the concept of "checks
and balances." Participants later discussed differences in the
government structure of the United States and Turkmenistan.

Turkmenabat Youth Debate Hard Versus Soft Sciences



9. (U) On January 16, Turkmenabat Alumni Assistant Sabina
Hojakuliyeva (FLEX '05) organized a debate club for 14 American
Corner visitors. After receiving information about debates and the
rules of the club, the participants were divided into two teams and
asked to prepare the topic, "It is more important for students to
study history and literature than it is for them to study science
and mathematics." After the conclusion of the debate the teams'
performances were discussed and the winning team was recognized.
Result: As a result of this activity, students had a chance to
develop their critical thinking, teamwork, public speaking, and
English language skills.

Lebap Geography and Current Events Classes Fill a Void


10. (U) FLEX Alumni and two American Corner volunteers conducted
their regular Geography and Current Events classes at the
Turkmenabat American Corner, each of which draws about 10 local
youth per session. During the January 22 Geography class, the
alumni led the participants in a trivia contest about world
geography, which tested on such questions as the biggest countries,
the highest population, the longest rivers, and the highest
mountains. The alumni then showcased one country -- Finland this
time -- discussing its topography, population and a number of
notable geographic and demographic features. The January 23 Current
Events class began with clips from BBC and Euronews (in English)
played on the television at the American Corner. Participants
discussed the news they had just watched: terrorist acts in Israel,
protests in the Czech Republic, and climate change. Both the
Current Events and Geography classes provide education not available
in state schools. The alumni and volunteers who organize the
classes develop their leadership and English language skills while
their "students" learn how to listen, debate and use the resources
of the American Corners.

English Language Fellow Conducts Online Lesson Plan Training


11. (U) On January 29, nearly 20 secondary school teachers from
Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Mary, and Turkmenabat participated in a live
online workshop led by post's English Language Fellow, John Mark
King, on how to write and use effective language presentation
dialogues. Teachers throughout the country and King have already
posted 75 messages on the theme at Turkmenistan's Educational Portal
( King explained in the forum how to tailor the
dialogues used in teacher's manuals and textbooks for local
students, and stressed the value of simplicity and repetition in
English instruction. King finished the 90-minute live session by
asking teachers/students to create their own dialogues and he
directed participants to materials for further study. King will

ASHGABAT 00000257 003 OF 003

continue to lead the forum in a non-live format for English teachers
throughout Turkmenistan.

English Language Fellow Trains New ACCESS Program Teachers


12. (U) In mid-January, King held a teacher training workshop for
the nine teachers involved in Turkmenistan's ACCESS English
Microscholarships Program, a two-year English language scholarship
for underprivileged youth in countries with large Muslim
populations. The primary source of materials for training were five
modules selected from the Office of English Language Programs' new
teacher training course, Shaping the Way We Teach English:
Successful Practices Around the World. King implemented the
following from the course: Critical and Creative Thinking,
Integrating Skills, Pair/Group Work, Authentic Materials and
Contextualizing Language; King had modified the first two lessons to
better suit local conditions. The workshop also addressed the
program's extracurricular component: participants planned
out-of-classroom activities that could be accomplished near the
location of instruction and with limited materials. King and the
teachers also discussed sources of additional assistance, including
Peace Corps volunteers, the local American Corners and each other.
The Public Affairs Section, through the English Language Fellow,
remains the focal point of assistance and support for the ACCESS
teachers, with the American Corners serving as the students' "second
home" for programming.

Students from Turkmenistan Join U.S., Uzbek Students in Online


13. (U) Over 25 secondary school students from Ashgabat, Dashoguz,
Mary, and Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan concluded a three-week online
project with U.S. (Amherst, Massachusetts) and Uzbek partners at the
Global Connections and Exchange (GCE)-Uzbekistan portal in a live
forum on January 17
( =777). The Integrated
Lesson project introduced many local students to the challenge
HIV/AIDS; local officials continue to claim only one case of the
disease in the country's history, while independent actors suggest
the rate is high and rising rapidly. Students first researched the
way the epidemic has affected African countries by visiting the
websites of such organizations as the World Health Organization,
Health Global Access Project, UNAIDS, and Medecins Sans Frontieres,
and then created collages using their research and skills they
gained from a GCE course on graphics editing. Participants in the
forum agreed on the need for urgent, focused prevention efforts for
at-risk groups, as well as a public awareness campaign to help
encourage official transparency on the topic and break down
discrimination against people infected with AIDS. Since October
2006, 78 students and 13 teachers from Turkmenistan have completed
online projects with their American counterparts under GCE.

14. (U) Dushanbe minimize considered.