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Places of Worship

Religious buildings for Turkmen Muslims may be mosques or mausoleums and shrines associated with venerated saints. Among the most famous mosques is the Kipchak Mosque, reported to be the largest in Central Asia. It was built in 2004 in the hometown of then-President Niyazov. Other mosques include the Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque near Ashgabat, built to commemorate the victims of a 1948 earthquake; Geokdepe Saparmurat Haji Mosque west of Ashgabat; and the 15th-century Seyit Jemaletdin Mosque in Anau. The first two may be visited by non-Muslims. Among the more notable shrines are the mausoleum of the 13th-century mystic Najmeddin Kubra, which has become a destination for pilgrims and is the holiest shrine in Kunya Urgench; the Mausoleum of Mane Baba in Mane, built in the 11th and 12th centuries; and the Mausoleum of Turabek-Khanym, the daughter of the Uzbek Khan who brought Islam to the area of Kunya-Urgench.

In 2004, the government destroyed at least seven mosques, causing a climate of fear. None has been rebuilt. Other oppressive acts appear to be aimed at discouraging active participation in mosques. In 2005, imams were instructed to hang a list of mosque attendees above the doors, and only those on the list could visit that mosque. This resulted in some arrests. The president clearly stated the government position: “We have one religion and unique traditions and customs, and there is no need for people to look beyond these.”