Internet users within the tightly controlled Central Asian country of Turkmenistan say they’re being forced to swear on the Koran that they will not use virtual private networks (VPNs).
Several Internet users across the extremely isolated former Soviet republic told RFE/RL that they were instructed by the authorities to swear on the holy book of Muslims that they’re going never to use VPNs after they applied for an online connection in their homes.
VPNs are illegal in Turkmenistan but are widely wont to circumvent government restrictions on the web.
“I waited for a year and a half after I filled all necessary documents and signed application forms asking to put in WiFi in my home. Now they assert i need to swear on the Koran that i will be able to not use a VPN, but nothing is accessible without VPNs. I don’t know what to try to to ,” an online user who introduced herself as Ainur told RFE/RL on August 9.
A local RFE/RL correspondent reported that a politician of the Ministry of National Security demanded that each Internet user swears on the Koran that they might not use VPNs.
For years, the authorities in Turkmenistan have blocked numerous websites — including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and sites offering VPN services — and have arrested people who installed such services on their mobile phones.
Turkmenistan is among the world’s worst countries regarding Internet censorship, alongside Belarus, China, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, consistent with a report published last week by Comparitech. This internet site gives information on cybersecurity and privacy online.