Turkmenistan is a Central Asian state bordering the Caspian Sea between Iran and Kazakhstan. Despite large natural gas reserves, 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The country is the most ethnically homogeneous of the Central Asian republics and, in contrast to other former Soviet states, has been largely free of inter-ethnic violence.

Since 2006 the government has taken steps to increase engagement with the rest of the world but Turkmenistan’s human rights record remains poor, and the authorities have yet to clarify the fate of a large number of missing persons.

Hundreds of people have been subject to enforced disappearance in Turkmenistan since the early 2000s, according to a campaign called Prove They Are Alive! that seeks to end enforced disappearances and uncover the truth about those people currently missing.

In one case in 2002 at least 59 people, including former members of the regime, were charged with conspiracy to assassinate then President Saparmurat Niyazov and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Families have had no official information about their fate, whereabouts, or health since their arrest and trial.

On the International Day of the Disappeared 2014 the Prove They Are Alive! campaign and Human Rights Watch called on the government of Turkmenistan to inform the relatives of the disappeared about the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones and to allow full and ongoing access to those who have been imprisoned.