Lomakin “Obychnoe pravo Turkmen” (Adat), (1897),
Ashgabat, “Ylym”, 1993
Lomakin “The Common Law of the Turkmens” (Adat), 1897,
Ashgabat, “Ylym”, republished in 1993
This book is the republication of A. Lomakin’s work and includes
information on the common law of Turkmens, and who worked first in Seraks police
office of the Transcaspian region, then later as Assistant Head of Tedjen and
Ahal district (uyezd). First, this work was published on the order of the Head
of the Transcaspian region, Lieutenant-General A.N. Kuropatkin in 1897 in
On behalf of
the author (Author’s remarks)
graduating the Officer’s course on Eastern Languages within the educational
section of the Asian department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1890, I
started to work in the Seraks police office of the Transcaspian region and
realized that the research on Muslim law which I undertook during my course, was
not of great use, when it comes to practical work of considering cases in the
People’s Court, as the decisions of the Court are accepted according to he
regulations of adat, which in most cases has a lot in common with shariat. (Shariat
is Muslim law stated in Koran and Mohammed'’ sayings. It is taught in detail
at the Officer’s course on Eastern Languages).
As due to my service position I had to express my opinion on the
correctness or incorrectness of People’s Court decisions which were to be
submitted for approval through the Head of the district (uezd) I became aware on
my ignorance on adat. (In Tedjen region a bailiff as a chairman of People’s
Court submitting for approval through the Head of the district the court
decisions, has to express his opinion on correctness or incorrectness of each
decision. To my mind, only the chairperson, who knows Turkmen’s customs as
people’s judges or has a manual to consult with, can express the correct
I had to study and research these customs partly as a requirement of the
administration, and partly as the chairman had the moral responsibility to
administer the justice in the Court, and due to the fact that such manual on
Turkmen customs did not exist. Primarily, I started without any plan limiting by
conversations with the people’s judges and writing down the people’s Court
decisions; however, I came across contradictions as similar cases had often
different decisions (people’s judges staff was variable), and I understood
that judges decided the cases not always according to the custom, therefore I
did not succeed. Then, I got the idea to talk to old people on my business trips
around the auls. Information from one aul (without the help of an interpreter)
was checked in other aulson using any chance, therefore after 3 years I knew the
Turkmen customs very well.
The information from Seraks was supplemented by me and checked first in
Tedjen where I worked as an Assistant Head of the district, then in Akhal (Ashkhabad
district) as Assistant Head of the district and later as office clerk Head of
the region. Finally, I could assess the practical significance of the
information gathered by me, only participating as an Assistant Chairman at Four
Extraordinary Congresses of People’s Judges.
As the head of
the Transcaspian region, Lieutenant-General Kuropatkin often asked for my
opinion on various shariat issues as well as issues relevant to the common law
of the Turkmens (adat). I having classified one part of the overall information
together submitted the first part of my work (family right) to His Excellency
asking for publication if the work was worthy. Lieutenant-General Koropatkin
regarded the work very useful for the region and ordered to publish it on karend
(rent) money of the region under the title of “Common law of Turkmens (adat).”
Thus, from the notes that I made for myself, the actual manual was made up of.
On working on parts of adat the information was added (updated) due to the
resolutions of Mr. Kuropatkin, who regularly consulted the book.
I do not want to guess to what extent this work will be useful for the
administration of the Transcaspian region, the future will show it, still I am
pleased to think that despite imperfection and shortcomings of my work, it can
serve without doubt as a base for further research.
Captain of the
Transcaspian brigadier of Detached Corps of Frontier Guards Lomakin.
orally, the traditions of the common law which Turkmens follow in their life and
according to which they are at law, are called kovagat or adat, or sometimes
deeb (“Kovagat”- plural from Arabian “kaide” (folk-kayada), means rule,
order, custom; “deeb” corrupted, comes from the word “Deatsa” means
argument, lawsuit, case; “Adat” from Arabic, means CUSTOM, HABIT.
not only as the guiding principle on solving of various cases, but also includes
rules on private and social life of Turkmen as well as household regulations on
using land, water, pastures, etc., in other words covers the overall life of
From Shariat –Moslem Law (Shariat is called Moslem legislation stated
in Koran and Magomed’s sayings) divided into two parts: “Ibalet” or
spiritual law and “Memaliket” or secular law. Turkmens entirely accepted
“Ibadet” having preserved it inviolable at present time; from
“memaliket” they borrowed (or adopted) very little, as accepted Islam and
its religious principles, however the Turk peoples living their own life, having
not much in common with the life of Arabs of the time of Magomed, could not
entirely replace the customs of their ancestors.
However, Islam had some influence on the ancient common law of the
Turkmens, thanks to fanatics Mullah(s) (religious functionary having the right
to serve in the mosque and interpret Koran) and Kazi(s) (judge investigating
cases according to the shariat) who being filled with Magomed’s dogma aimed
and are now aiming at introducing much more shariat in the common law of
Turkmens. Their aspiration succeeded as even at present time family, inheritance
and divorce cases are considered in Turkmen people’s courts according to
written handbooks nor manuals on the common laws of the Turkmens ever existed
not only in Russian but in Turkmen language as well. Adat is not considered a
science by Turkmens as Shariat, therefore is not taught in the educational
institutions, but transmitted orally.
(or family) rights
to the Turkmen custom, marriage is not stipulated by any age limit and age
inequality is not an obstacle for marrying. The custom allows marrying if under
aged (on parents’ or tutors’ consent) as well as old men. There is the limit
only for the under aged. It means that under aged wives before coming of age
they have to live in their parents’ home, tutors or relatives, moreover the
custom doesn’t allow cohabitation with them.
life of Turkmens usually starts: for boys from 15 years and for girls from 12.
(If the girl’s period starts sooner, the girl is able for conjugal life since
the moment when she had her first period). Sometimes in Turkmen families,
marriages of the under aged are concluded by their parents; in this case,
similar marriages are regarded real and compulsory for both sides on coming of
age, as if marriages were concluded at a mature age.
If a girl’s parents, propose their daughter as a wife receive kalym (kalym
is called ransom, veno), but the marriage is not concluded then on coming of age
the girl has the right to agree to marry or to refuse. In this case the kalym
has to be returned.
Since the age
of 12 the parents’ or tutors’ consent on regarding the marriage of a girl is
not anymore needed: a bride-groom can abduct a full-aged girl and marry her on
her consent, and the marriage is considered legal even without the consent of
the girl’s parents or tutors. The obstacle for marriage for a man is madness,
impotence, and for a woman, physical defects preventing conjugal cohabitation.
Legal wives (nikahli
helei) are those with whom the marriage ceremony (nikah) is conducted, whereas
concubines (kyrnak) are brought home without any marriage ceremony. (kyrnak are
also called the legal wives who are half-bred Turkmen women)
custom does not allow to have more than four wives at the same time; at
different times, allows to a man’s heart’s content.
This rule (or
regulation) is taken from shariat, which states that to have more than four
wives is illegal. In order to marry a new wife the consent of other wives is not
needed. Besides four legal wives every Turkmen is allowed to have an unlimited
number of concubines (kynak). Now an illegal cohabitation among Turkmens is very
rare. Before the Russian ruling of Turkmenia, the majority of the Turkmens had
illegal wives. This cohabitation happened with women captured during forays or
bought very cheap from Persians and Kurds of the border areas.
Concubines were regarded as goods until they gave birth; after a child
was born “kyrnak” was called “umm-e-veled” (which means a child’s
mother in the Arabic language), and since this time on her master was deprived
of the right to sell her to another person, though it depended on him to marry
her or to continue illegal cohabitation.
that had no children, after their master’s death, were inherited as property,
whereas umm-e-veled became free; they had the right to marry on the same grounds
as Turkmen widows. The custom does not allow cohabitation with pure-blooded
making: Match making precedes the
marriage custom. Turkmen people going to marry never directly participate in
matchmaking; this is undertaken through a third person, usually by a relative or
an honorable old man. A matchmaker goes to the bride’s relatives and in the
case of their consent to marriage, they discuss the conditions of kalym and the
On the wedding
day 5 women from the groom’s side come on camel back accompanied by 20-30
persons, come to the bride’s home to abduct her (pretended abduction). (This
custom goes back to ancient times when the wives of the Turks and Slavs were
obtained by force, abducted). Having seen the guests, the women-relatives and
women-neighbors of the bride pretend that they do not allow the bride to go, and
the guests pretend that they are taking the bride away to the groom by force.
Then the groom’s men and women take the bride and run away, being followed by
the bride’s relatives. There is a fight between them, and the participants
sometimes get carried away and a trifle fight turns into a serious one, and as a
result the majority of them return back to the groom’s home with bloody noses
and without teeth.
The reaction of Turkmens is seen from the following example: in December
16, 1895, the Extraordinary Congress of People’s Judges considered the case on
the appeal on the decision of the Ashkhabad People’s Court which had sentenced
a Turkmen to 1 week arrest and payment of expenses for treatment for 2 Turkmens,
beaten during the pretended abduction of a bride.
The Extraordinary Congress freed the accused from the punishment,
motivating that that beating was unintentional and was due to protection of the
bride from the groom’s people, and that in such cases Turkmens are never
Turkmen families does not exist.
The marriage ceremony (marriage- “nikah”)
the Turkmen custom, the marriage ceremony is completed verbally by a groom’s
declaration and the bride’s consent before a mullah, in the presence of at
least 2 male witnesses. The witnesses have to be Moslems, full aged and in the
right mind. They are called “shade-kazi”. The presence of the witnesses is
very important for a marriage ceremony. Before the marriage ceremony the Mullah
is examining the witnesses to make sure that the bride is free and that the
groom has no more than 3 legal wives, and that they both wish to marry on mutual
consent. Only after that he is praying according to Koran (hutbe and fatkhu from
the first sura of Koran). If a bride is widowed or divorced the Mullah has to
make sure that the mourning period had expired (usually 4 months and ten days)
in the first case, and in the second case that a woman is really divorced and
that her 3 periods have passed.
According to the Turkmen custom, during the ceremony one needs to put a
cup of tea covered by a handkerchief before the bride and the groom. In one of
the corners of the handkerchief a coin is put. After the Mullah’s prayer, the
marrying couple has to take a sip from the cup. Then people congratulate the
couple wishing them to live in peace and consent. The handkerchief is given to
one of the witnesses, the coin to the other.
Kalym (veno, bashlyk)
the custom, a Turkmen wishing to marry has to pay as ransom a relevant amount of
money to the bride’s father, or if he is dead to the close relatives, tutors
or those people who brought the bride up and are marrying her off. This ransom
is called kalym. Kalym is never paid in the favour of the bride. In this
respect, the Turkmen custom differs from shariat: according to shariat a woman
who is going to marry uses the kalym; this is her inalienable right, therefore
she can refuse it before her marriage, or having taken part of it before
marriage, freed her husband from paying the other part of kalym. Except her,
shariat does not permit anybody to use kalym, neither during her husband’s
life, nor after his death.
The amount of
kalym varies in each of the Turkmen tribes. For instance, at Iomuds from 5-12
camels, at Goklen 2000-3500 kran (the rate of kran=20 kopecks in silver), at
Teke – 2000-4000 kran, at Alili- 3300 kran, at Saryks and Salyr 1600-2000 kran.
above-mentioned amounts of kalym were established in the People’s Court as
standard in cases of court suits regarding kalym.
The amount of kalym depends on the wealth of the groom and on a bride’s
parents, a bride’s age, her beauty and other reasons; sometimes it depends on
the circumstances whether she is a virgin or a widow. It is a fact that within
the last years the amount of kalym has been increased. The reason is that since
the pacification of the region, a Turkmen that had no money to pay kalym is
deprived by the opportunity, as before, to bring back a concubine from his raids
(alaman), and therefore the demand for Turkmen brides increased. The increase of
kalym is profitable for a bride’s father, but in reality is a great obstacle
for getting married. Wise Turkmens understand that it is the time to make easier
the position of those wishing to marry by reducing the amount of kalym. For
instance, in winter 1895, the Extraordinary Congress of the People’s Judges
addressed the head of the region with the petition for taking measures to reduce
the kalym or at least to stop the increase of it.
The Head of
the region agreed with the opinion of the judges of the Extraordinary Congress
and said that the population itself had to initiate the limitation of kalym and
recommended the judges, as being honorable and influential representatives, that
on their return to auls to convince the population that the administration would
do its best to solve the kalym issue only on the population’s petition.
Though a year has passed and still there was no petition from the
population and the issue was unsolved. However, during recent times, the
Turkmens established the custom of making the payment of kalym possible: it was
a rule to pay half in cash, and the rest in cattle. Moreover, the cattle as a
part of kalym was assessed at 1 ½ - 2 times more expensive as its real value.
For cattle assessment, 4 delegates, 2 on each side, were selected. The term on
kalym payment depends on the agreement of the relatives from both sides.
In many cases
kalym is being paid within some years, particularly if the groom’s relatives
are poor and cannot support him in the payment of kalym. As the Turkmen custom
differs from shariat on kalym, a marrying girl, widow or divorced to use kalym,
therefore a bride does not participate in the discussions on amount, term and
conditions of payment of the kalym.
the kalym conditions, the parents of the marrying couple establish the total sum
of money and cattle on mutual consent, bargaining as if at sale and purchase.
In the case of
non-implementing of conditions, the side having the right of receiving kalym,
applies for a court suit, which if it fails to reconciliate the two parties,
insists on payment according to the terms, or following the above mentioned
amounts of kalym, and identifies the sum which a respondent has to pay.
If a young
girl, the parents of whom don’t want her to marry her groom, leaves her
parents home and is married without their consent, but with preserving the
ceremonies required by the custom in order that there is no chance to take her
back home, her parents avoiding any contacts with the abductor’s relatives,
insist in court on the immediate payment of the whole kalym in cash.
In this case, the People’s Court in establishing the sum of kalym
follows the above-mentioned amounts. However, as the abducted girl’s parents
insist on the immediate payment of the overall kalym in cash and the
abductor’s relatives finally consenting to satisfy the petitioners, insist on
paying half in cattle, due to assessment. The People’s Court, following the
custom, in most cases satisfies the respondent’s petition. Obeying the
People’s Court decision, the petitioners (the plaintiffs) try to postpone the
reconciliation; they insist on assessing the cattle by their own evaluators
without interference from the respondent’s people, whereas the latter
foreseeing the partial assessment, on their turn, insist on the assessment
according to the custom, from the both sides. If the sides don’t come to an
agreement, the People’s Court, as a rule, selects the outside, impartial
the custom, the relevant sum (or part) of the kalym has to be paid before the
marriage ceremony. The newly married girl’s parents take her home later after
the wedding (from 2 weeks to 60 days) until the groom or his relatives pay the
overall sum of kalym.
separated from his wife, has to earn kalym and pay in installments to his
wife’s parents; poor people, having no rich relatives to support them, have to
earn kalym during some years. The more cattle the husband has, the sooner he can
pay the overall kalym to his wife’s parents.
established this rule (to return the bride temporarily) in order to make the
husbands carry out their responsibilities towards his wife’s parents on kalym
The custom requires that a newly married woman has to return back to her
parents’ home in 40-50 days after the wedding, even if the kalym is entirely
paid. In this case she has to stay a year or till childbearing.
bride exchange without payment of kalym exists. It happens in the cases when,
for instance, a father having a son and a daughter, wishes to marry his son off;
having no money to pay kalym, instead he marries his daughter to one of the
relatives of his son’s bride, or, for instance, a brother if an adult bride,
marrying a woman, instead of kalym marries his sister to one of his bride’s
This custom of
bride exchange is called “karshylyk”, which means, “reward” as well as
“requital” (good for good, evil for evil).
If a woman,
married as karshylyk, becomes a widow and then wishes to remarry, kalym as an
exception is used not by her parents as usually, but by her husband’s
above, the Turkmen custom regards kalym as a reward to a person who reared the
bride before marriage, therefore karshylyk doesn’t contradict the common
custom, as having no bride whom he would have married off due to karshylyk, a
groom’s father would have paid kalym for the daughter taken for his son, and
vice versa, having no son or relative whom he would have married off with paying
kalym for the bride, the father or relative marrying the bride off would have
received kalym for her.
According to the custom, a bride’s relatives on receiving kalym or
karshylyk have to perform their functions in marrying their daughter or relative
off to her groom.
If a bride’s
relatives proposing her as a wife from her childhood receive overall kalym, then
on coming of age she cannot get married to another man without returning the
If kalym is
entirely or partially paid foe a bride who dies before marriage, then due to the
custom, those who paid kalym have the right to demand it (money or cattle) back.
In the case
when after the marriage ceremony and bride’s returning home to her parents’
home, her husband cannot pay the rest of the kalym by the deadline, and he is
sued in the court, then the court rules that the husband should pay in the
determined term. If he is not able or does not wish to pay kalym, the court
condemns a husband to divorce his wife, if he refuses the court declares the
above, first of all, a bride’s father has the right to receive kalym, and if
he is dead, then the close male relatives in the following order: bride’s
brothers, cousins, etc, related until the 7th generation. At equal
relationship kalym is equally divided between the relatives. If a bride has no
relatives, according to the custom a tutor or a person having cared and married
her off has the right to receive kalym. That’s why, if a girl is orphan, all
her relatives wish to take her to their home and rear her, hoping to receive
kalym for her in the future.
the custom, if a girl’s father or her relative is not able to rear her,
refuses upbringing and brings her to the mosque, and if somebody out of pity for
the girl takes her home and rears her then on her marriage, this person receives
during such girl’s marriage, her father or relative appear to demand kalym. In
such cases, according to the experience of the Extraordinary Congresses of the
People's Judges, the custom established the following kalym division: 1/3 in
favor of the person that reared the girl, 1/3 in the favor of the father or
relative, who left the girl, called (“songi-hostar”), and 1/3 in the
bride’s favor. Moreover, it is stipulated that if a married woman becomes a
widow and wishes to marry again, then 1/3 of the kalym she received is taken by
It is needed
to point out that the right of mothers-widows on receiving the part of kalym is
different in Turkmen tribes, for instance: in Akhal, if a mother marries earlier
than her daughter, she is deprived of the right of any kalym for herself (the
1/3), as well as if she, the widow, breaks the relationship with her husband’s
relatives, and lives not in the house of her dead husband but at her parents’
home. If she still lives in her husband’s house after his death, she has the
right to demand from her husband’s male relatives a part of kalym received by
them for her daughter. In case they refuse, the People’s Court decides in her
favour the part of kalym to be received by her (from 1/8 to ½). In Iomud
tribes, the mother-widow can demand in any case the reward for the upbringing of
her daughter, married off with payment of kalym. In case the relatives refuse to
pay the mother the kalym, the People’s Court always rules in the favor of the
mother-widow a part of kalym- maximum amount of 12 tumans yearly (tuman-10kran,
kran =20 kopecks) but for 7 years only. The rest of kalym is received by the
close male relatives of her husband. As an exception to the rule, strictly
observed by all the Turkmens, the custom, as above mentioned, provides the right
to take (use) kalym by the dead husband’s relatives only in the case when a
woman married off without kalym due to karshylyk, and having become a widow
wishes to marry again.
As mentioned above, this exclusive rule regards only widows, but not
divorced women: if a woman was
married according to karyshlyk and then divorced who remarries, then according
to the common law the kalym is received by her relatives.
If on a
widow’s consent, her brother in law or one of her late husband’s relatives
marries her, then kalym is not paid to the widow’s relatives. In such cases,
the widow’s relatives try not to allow her to marry as it is against their
interests; however, if despite their persuasion, she still insists on her
decision, her relative will sue her thorough the People’s Court, which as a
rule, reconciles both sides on the condition of gifting some money or cattle to
her relatives, but not paying kalym.
It is needed
to highlight that in recent times the People’s Court decisions on paying kalym
for widows getting married have been changed. In most cases, widows marry the
chosen men who they love and who can support their new husband not to pay kalym
to her relatives, who will sue through the People’s Court. In the court a
widow states that she married on her own wish and does not want her husband to
waste (lose) money on paying kalym to her relatives. Moreover, a widow usually
gives the argument that if her first husband would not have died, her relatives
would have been satisfied with the kalym paid for her.
Due to the fact that a chairman in the People’s Court always supports
widows as well as kazi or mullah, shariat representative, trying to support
widows when is possible, and as above mentioned according to shariat kalym
belongs entirely to a woman and she uses it as she likes, judges also in most
cases comply with the widows’ request and free their new husbands from paying
changing this custom the widow’s relatives having received kalym had to spend
some money on purchasing silver adornments, dresses and other things for her.
If a bride,
for whom kalym or part of it is paid but due to various circumstances does not
get married to her groom, kalym is returned back, namely the same amount that
had been paid. If a marriage ceremony did not happen because of a groom’s
refusal without any reasons, kalym was not returned back before; now, on
People’s Court’s decision- it has to be returned, deducting some part as
penalty. The penalty is in the favor of the bride’s relatives according to the
decision of the People’s Court.
In cases when
a bride cannot marry her groom due to circumstances (death, being in captivity,
abduction of a bride with her consent, but without her parents’ consent,
physical disabilities preventing performing conjugal responsibilities, etc.)
kalym is returned back to a bridegroom or his relatives as it was paid, however
no fine or penalty is imposed on the bride’s relatives.
kalym but then marry the bride to another person, though returning the kalym to
the first groom is regarded dishonest by Turkmens. In former times, if a
bride’s father or relative, after making a deal and receiving a part of kalym,
married a bride to another man, hostility results that ends in murder.
When the region came under direct Russian rule, bloody violence due to
kalym was significantly reduced, thanks to the administration’s policy:
whereas in remote auls murders are still taking place. If a bride for whom kalym
is paid finds out that her groom is incapable of conjugal life (impotent), the
custom provides her the right not to marry. However, she cannot enjoy this right
from the moment she became aware that he is impotent, even if a groom
acknowledges that he is impotent. In this case, according to the custom, the
groom is given a testing time. If within a year the observers confirm that he
was not cured from impotence, a bride becomes free and the received kalym is
returned back to her groom.
making and kalym deals take place in the presence of witnesses, so in case of
misunderstandings, the People’s Court makes the decision based on evidence
provided by the witnesses.
the case of paying entire or partial kalym without any witnesses, and if a
person who received kalym refuses to give it back, he has to testify in court
In the case of
a bride’s flight from her parents home and marrying without their consent not
to the person who paid kalym, her parents have to return kalym back immediately;
if they are not able to do it at once, then on receiving kalym from the
abductor. In this case the bride’s parents recover a double kalym from an
abductor, moreover according to the custom, if her parents are not able to
return kalym back to the 1st groom immediately, they have to sue the
abductor to pay the kalym at once, in order to satisfy the 1st man
Kalym for an
illegitimate daughter is entirely used by her mother. None of the
fornicatress’s relatives can use kalym, as it is regarded unclean. To receive
kalym by the relatives would be very blame worthy.
to the custom, a part of kalym, usually 1/3 must be used on purchasing dowry for
the bride who is getting married, but within recent time as a result of the
increase of the amount of the kalym, this part is returned back to the groom,
and a dowry is purchased not at once, but gradually.
of marriage: According to the
Turkmen custom the validity of marriage is stipulated only by the verbal
statement of both sides or their confidants in the presence of at least two
witnesses. No written evidence of a conjugal union exists at Turkmens.
regarded invalid and is dissolved in the following cases:
If married under
compulsion (a girl or a widow) proves that during the marriage ceremony she
didn’t consent to marry and was married by force.
Note: In the
case of a woman’s statement that a marriage was registered against her wish,
the People’s Court questions the mullah that registered the marriage and the
witnesses, piyade-kazi; they are testifying without being under oath. Only in
exclusive cases, piyade-kazi have to swear under oath. For instance, the widow
Niyaz-bibi- Ata-bai kizy of the Yangi-kala village of Ashkhabad region, in
summer 1896 filed a complaint that her brother Gaib-Niyaz had married her to
Oraz-Geldy Toshi-ogly under compulsion and received a kalym of 120 tumans,
therefore she ran away from him and she now wants a divorce. Niyaz-bibi’s
complaint was considered in the Ashkhabad’s People’s Court on the 19 July
1896. Based on the oathless evidence of the witnesses, piyade-kazi, who
testified that the mullah, according to the rule, asked Niyaz-bibi three times
if she agreed to marry or not Oraz-Geldy, and that she had replied “yes”
three times, resolved: marriage is valid and obliged Niyaz-bibi to return back
to her husband with the baby of her former husband; the remaining three children
had to be given to the brother immediately whereas her baby in a year (according
to the People’s Court Decision). Niyaz-bibi was not satisfied with this
decision and appealed to the Head of the area. This case, on Niyaz Bibi’s
petition was considered by the Extraordinary People’s Congress of Judges on 30
November 1896. Having questioned both sides and witnesses the congress concluded
that the decision of the Ashkhabad’s People’s Court was correct, according
to the custom. Having understood that the decision of the Congress would not be
in her favor, Niyaz-bibi together with her teenager child started to cry and
scream and said to the judges that she would not obey the decision of the
Congress, that she would kill herself but not return to back to Oraz-Geldy.
Moreover, she was going to complain to the Head of the region.
The judges were very sorry for Niyaz-bibi and her children and agreed to
extreme measures- to have the witnesses, piade-kazi, testify under the oath,
so-called “mokhkemliki uchun”, which means for firmness, adding that if
Niyaz-bibi’s evidence was to some extent true, then the witnesses would
hesitate to testify under the oath and they might then change the decision of
the Ashkhabad’s People’s Court. The witnesses took the oath immediately,
therefore the 1st decision was approved by the Congress. When the
decision of the Congress was declared to both sides, Oraz-Geldy made Niyaz-bibi
return back to him, whereas her brother Gaib-Niyaz, based on the court’s
decision wanted to take the children. This moment the tragedy broke out which
depressed the chairperson and made the judges smile. When Niyaz-bibi saw that
they were taking away her children she started lamenting and beating her face,
and the children started to cry and scream, scratching their own faces; when her
husband wanted to pull Niyaz-bibi in order to take her to his aul, whereas the
brother tried to take the children (three of them of 7, 11 and 15), not wishing
to be separated from their mother, attacked those who wanted to separate them
using their fists, feet and teeth. Djigits (skilful horsemen) were ordered to
take Niyaz-bibi out of the court. However, the children became so embittered
that turned into beasts: snatching at swords, at the djigits’ legs, biting,
screaming, and trying to scratch their faces. This scene was stopped only when
the chairman of the Congress declared that Niyaz-bibi would not be separated
from her children until the approval of the decision of the Congress by the Head
of the region. Of course, Niyaz-bibi hurried to the Head of the region with the
complaint on the last decision according to which she had to be separated from
her children brutally.
The Head of the region promised Niyaz-bibi that the decision would be
just and based on the human rights of a mother, and indeed, when on the 3 rd
December 1896 the detailed decision of the Congress was submitted by the
Chairman of the Congress and me, his assistant to the Head of the region, having
agreed, which was stated in the resolution, that the decision was correct
according to adat. However, he did not approve this decision, stating in his
resolution: “taking into account the legal and human feelings of the mother,
not wishing to be separated from her 3 children, I allow Niyaz-bibi to stay at
her relatives 3 more years, then I propose to consider this case on the
Extraordinary Congress of People’s Judges, if by that time conciliation is not
achieved”. This is a very human decision, of course and was met by Niyaz-bibi
and her 3 children with great appreciation towards the representative of the
Russian power, preventing the victory of adat over the human rights of a mother.
If a married
woman (not divorced) marries again.
If a widow
marries before the mourning period (mourning- “idde”) – 4 months and 10
days or a divorced woman – before 3 periods after her divorce. Marriage
contracted with a pregnant woman is also regarded invalid.
If a Turkmen had
4 living wives, marries the 5th one. The custom, as above-mentioned,
does not allow having more than 4 legal wives at the same time. If a Turkmen
divorced one of his four wives, and wishes to marry again, in this case the
custom allows to do it, without any limitation, however preserving the condition
to have not more than 4 wives at once.
Marriage with an
under aged contracted without the consent of her parents or tutors is regarded
contracted between very close relationships are regarded invalid; therefore they
sister as well as to his half-sister
father to his
father to his
stepson to his
uncle to his
nephew to his
to their sisters
nursed people to
to a wife’s
sister if the wife is alive
Marriages are allowed between cousins. A nephew can marry his uncle’s
daughter. Debates and misunderstandings appeared because of issues related on
validity of marriages in the Turkmen times (before the Russian rule) were solved
by kazi (kazi is a holy man solving debates between Muslim people, according to
the shariat, p. 62). Now such debates are solved by the People’s Court with
the participation of experts-kazi and mullah.
the Turkmen custom besides so-called natural dissolution of marriage in the
result of death of one of the spouses, marriage can be dissolved in the
on mutual consent
of the spouses
wish, even without his wife’s consent
In the first
two cases the husband himself has to give his wife a divorce (talak). Divorce
given with the wife’s consent or without it is expressed by the words: “I
gave you a divorce” or “You are divorced”, and giving a divorce paper “talak-haty”.
One must emphasize that the divorce regulations are borrowed by Turkmens
entirely from shariat, therefore divorce cases without the participation of
shariat representatives, kazi or mullah are not solved by the People’s Court.
pronunciation of the above mentioned words by the husband, even in the presence
of kazi, the woman is not entirely free and she cannot marry another person –
she has to wait for the expiry term “idde” – 3 periods, and during this
period she is in her husband’s power, who has the right to return her back
home without marriage “nikah”, she again becomes as before his legal wife.
Husband wishing to return his wife back before the expiry term “idde” does
not need her consent, neither according to shariat, not according to adat.
Having the responsibility to keep his wife before expiry term “idde”,
the husband is not usually allowed to have sex with his wife. A woman waiting
for the expiry term “idde” as above-mentioned, cannot marry another person.
Such marriages are not allowed in order to know whose children are born. After
the expiry term “idde”, the husband that divorced his wife is deprived to
marry her again until she marries another person, divorces him or until she
becomes a widow. Moreover, in both cases she has to observe the expiry term “idde”.
After the expiry term “idde” a woman is allowed to marry any person she
all suits on paying kalym are stopped.
category of marriage dissolution, on Court’s decision, happens only on the
initiative of the wife, as according to the custom as well as shariat, husbands
have a right to divorce whenever they like, without explaining why, if only on
caprice. Therefore, husbands have no need to apply for the Court. A Turkmen
woman is in quite different situation: though the custom allows her to apply for
court in the case of a husband’s bad treatment towards her or disability to
engage in sexual life, still the judges try to make justice to the husband, give
him time to cure and do everything in order not to divorce a woman without her
husband’s consent. If a husband treats his wife unkindly, does not want to
keep her, etc., his wife has to bring to the Court trustworthy witnesses who can
confirm that life with her husband was hard and unbearable. And even after that
the Court before divorcing usually nominates confidential persons (or agents)
who have to spy upon the spouses.
If after the
fixed term (usually from ½ year to one year) the agents confirm in the Court
the woman’s statement, the Court in the case of her husband’s dissent (or
disagreement) divorces his wife itself, determining material conditions
obligatory for both sides.
As above mentioned a wife has the right to demand a dissolution of
marriage only in the case when on natural or accidental reasons her husband is
impotent. On these conditions according to the Turkmen custom, divorce is given
by Court either immediately or in a year, immediately if a husband is castrated
and in this case a year delay is of no use, and one-year delay if a husband is
impotent even after some years of joint life. It is needed to point out that
even if impotence is certified and a husband himself does not reject this fact
still the court gives him one year delay for curing, This custom seem strange,
however some decisions of the People’s Court prove it. Judges explain that a
man’s impotence could happen not on the reason of bodily defect but due to
transient and accidental reason, which has to be found out within one year.
In most cases
an impotent husband rejects this in Court because of his unwillingness of being
divorced and of losing a mistress of the house, as after the marriage
dissolution, due to his impotence, neither girls, nor widows will marry hum. In
the case a husband rejects his wife’s statement that he is impotent, the Court
appoints trustworthy people to watch the spouses, and fixes a definite term,
usually a year. If after this term it is certified that a husband was not cured
from impotence, then the People’s Court make him divorce his wife. If a
husband does not want to dissolve the marriage voluntarily, the Court dissolves
it itself, asking the mullah or kazi to give/issue the divorce paper (talak haty)
signed by several judges. This divorce paper equals the paper given by the
husband himself: having this paper a woman is allowed to marry whoever she likes
after the expiry term “idde” (3 periods).
If a husband proves his wife’s adultery (or fornication), she is not
allowed to demand divorce. In this case a husband has more rights according to
the custom; we know that a husband’s wish is enough to divorce his wife
without explaining anything, but in this case the custom gives him the right to
kill his wife- adulteress and go unpunished.
sterility is not considered to be an obligatory reason for divorce: to live with
such a woman or to divorce her depends on her husband.
the present (or modern) custom a wife is allowed to ask People’s Court to
divorce her from a mentally impaired husband: if she can prove that he has a
raving (or ungovernable) madness, the People’s Court , despite the protests of
her husband’s relatives, divorces them, making the relative return back a part
of kalym. This custom did not exist before the Russian ruling; shariat does not
allow a wife to divorce from her crazy husband on her own initiative.
absence of a husband does not allow his wife to marry again without the consent
of the relatives of the disappeared husband. As a rule, in the case of several
years absence of the husband, a wife addresses his relatives in order to get a
permission to divorce. In most cases, they don’t agree, asking her to wait
more, and finally they mutually agree on a definite term: on the expiration of
the term a wife is given the permission to divorce, but only on the condition of
the relevant compensation for her husband’s relatives in the case that she
marries again. Shariat does not allow it, assuming that a disappeared husband
can return back any time.
dissolved only by kazi or mullah present in the People’s Court as shariat
experts. Kazi fill in a divorce paper (talak haty), mentioning the witnesses
present at the divorce, signs it and stamps it. Upon receipt of the divorce
paper a divorced women is allowed to marry any person, but after the expiration
of the above-mentioned “idde”.
If a Court divorces without a husband’s consent usually a divorces
woman has to pay her former husband the relevant sum of money on marrying again,
which is also mentioned in the divorce paper.
Property consequences for a
A divorce has
the following property consequences for the divorced couple:
1) If a couple
is divorced because of a husband’s impotence, his wife is not to be blamed for
it, and the paid kalym is not returned back to her husband.
If kalym is paid
partially a husband on above-mentioned conditions of divorce has to pay his
wife’s relatives the second part of the kalym.
8) When the reason
for the divorce is the wife’s sterility, kalym is not returned back to her
husband and the unpaid part of it needs to be paid to the relatives of the
If the reason for
a divorce is because of an anomalous structure of the wife’s genitals, kalym
or the paid part of it is returned back to her husband at his request.
If a divorce is given by the People’s Court
without a husband’s consent, regardless of reason, except impotence, a part of
kaly, usually half of it is returned back to the husband. The reason of this
custom is that by marrying a wife, a Turkmen man pays the kalym not only for a
female, but for a worker as well whom he loses on being divorced against his
Dowry (carpets, chests, hurdjums, etc.) which a
wife brought to her husband’s home can be taken away by the divorced woman
A divorced woman is allowed to take from her
husband’s home the following clothes: 1 shirt, 1 pair of trousers, 1 head-
dress, and 1 kerchief.
If during a divorce spouses have a small child
a wife has the right to nurse and care for him/her until the child is able to
eat himself/herself. P. 31 To nurse
a child is a divorced wife’s right but not her responsibility. Nafaka or
supporting a child (bringing clothes, soap, etc.) until a divorced mother is
nursing a child is a father’s responsibility
A divorced wife does not use the property left
from her former husband as well as a husband has no right to the property left
from his divorced wife.
The conditions according to which a Turkmen man
can marry again a divorced woman are mentioned above.
Spouses’ rights and responsibilities:
the custom every man on paying kalym has to take his wife home and provide her
with living, food, and clothes, relevant to his living standards; keeping or
supporting a wife by a husband is called “nafaka” (Arabic word).
according to the custom nobody can make a husband spend money on his wife’s
clothes, on the furniture of his kibitka and other things in order to go into
debt, at the same time the custom requires from every man to keep his wife
according to his standard of living; if a husband does not provide his wife with
the necessary dresses, food or wood for heating the kibitka, his wife can
complain to her relatives, who through People’s Court make her husband give
her adequate support. Otherwise if the husband refuses, People’s Court act as
above mentioned in the 3rd category of marriage dissolution. Spouses
have to always live together.
On moving to
another aul, a wife has no right to refuse to go with her husband. In case of
the wife’s unwillingness to follow her husband, the custom provides the
husband with the right to make his wife move by force. Only during the
independence of Turkmenia in the cases when a husband was taken prisoner, the
custom allowed a wife not to obey her husband to move to another place, if he
would have demanded it from captivity. Such person’s wife had to continue to
live in her husband’s home or at his relatives and was expected to wait for
his return from captivity.
She had no right to marry again as long as her husband was alive.
times of the Russian rule, when Turkmens were exiled due to the Court’s
decision or administrative order to European Russia and Mangyshlak, the custom
established that the exiled husband had no right to force his wife to follow
him. However, if a wife wished to follow her husband voluntarily, the
administrative bodies did not prevent this. Such cases did happen. According to
the established custom a wife of the exiled husband had to live in her
husband’s or his relatives’ home and wait for his return from exile. She was
not allowed to marry again as long as her husband was alive. Each wife had to
live in a separate kibitka, if a husband was not able to buy a kibitka, then in
a hut or saklia (dwelling of Caucasian people).
The custom did
not allow that several wives live in the same kibitka, even if it was large
keeping of her wife by her husband is stopped if a wife as a result of family
misunderstandings leaves her husband’s house in order to live at her
A suit on
nafaka (keeping or supporting of a wife by her husband) brought in by a wife to
the People’s Court is not considered until she returns back to her husband.
According to the custom a husband must have conjugal sexual life with all
his wives, taking turn. As a rule a husband has a liking for his last, younger
demands that a wife has to obey her husband and carry out all his orders.
The custom trying to protect morality of the people provides husbands and
fathers with the right to kill their wives and daughters caught in the act of
adultery (or fornication) as well as their lovers. They (husbands or fathers)
are not punished and they are exempted of “huna” (ransom (vira) which is
paid by a killer, according to custom, for murder), if both lovers are killed at
the same time; if only the man or the woman is killed, the killer has to pay
huna to the respective’s family.
Moreover, the lovers have to be killed at the moment of fornication in
order for the killer to be freed from paying the huna.
Court requires that the killer (husband or father) certifies through
witnesses’ evidence that he killed the lovers at the moment of fornication. It
is needed to mention the Turkmen custom which makes indignant any civilized
person, namely the violence inflicted by a jealous husband against his wife,
whom he suspects that is committing adultery but cannot prove. Such husbands
blinded by jealousy take hot metal things such as teapot, tongs, etc. and put on
his wife’s genitals.
If I had not presided in the people’s court on considering such cases
of violence, I would have not believed such things. In one of the cases, a
doctor’s assistant examines the plaintiff stated that the burns off her
genitals, but the People’s Court who listened to the arguments of a jealous
husband arrested him only for some days.
Property rights of the spouses
by a Turkmen woman to her husband’s house, though is regarded her property,
according to the custom, still she is not allowed to use it without her
husband’s consent. Only if she is divorced or widowed and she does not wish to
stay in her late husband’s house, she can take her dowry with her. In a
Turkmen family, the property belongs to the husband, who can use it as he wishes
without his wife’s consent, he can sell, rent or mortgage. The Turkmen custom
allows a wife to participate in using her husband’s property, at the same time
requires from her to do her best in order to increase the property. A woman has
no right to use her husband’s property even in his absence. A wife has no
right to deal with trade without her husband’s consent; whereas a widow can do
it even without the consent of her or her late husband’s relatives. She is not
allowed to sell anything from the property after her husband’s death if he has
A wife cannot be bound with promissory notes or lend from her
dowry without her husband’s consent.
On Turkmen women’s status
mentioned on Turkmen women helped to conclude that her position is very bad. As
we have seen a Turkmen woman has no personal rights and independent privileges
as well that she does not enjoy freedom and independence. It is difficult to say
that the position of a Moslem woman in those Middle Eastern countries, where
shariat and its teachings are deeply rooted is worse than a Turkmen woman’s
position. I would like to compare some instances of the position of the Turkmen
women, with the position of women from the countries strictly following the
shariat regulations. As it is known, according to shariat a husband has to
consider his legal wife as his friend, owner in his house, whereas adat regards
a woman as a person deprived of rights, not more than female (samka)
and as property bought by the husband for kalym. Shariat allows a husband
to punish his wife only for leaving the house without his consent, theft,
refusal of sexual relations and proved fornication; whereas a Turkmen woman can
be attacked by her husband because of his caprice, or only on suspicion of
fornication and she is severely punished.
However, in recent years the mutual relationship between a wife and a
husband improved. This was the result of the fact that cruel treatment towards a
wife was always punished by the Tsarist administration and moreover that to pay
kalym for his wife a man had to work hard for some years; in case his wife’s
died because of his cruel treatment, he would not be able to have a concubine as
long time ago, before paying kalym for a new wife.
of Turkmen widows is worse than the Moslem widows guiding themselves on shariat.
As we know from the cove example, after a husband’s death a Turkmen woman’s
life depends again on her relatives. Though, according to adat nobody can force
a widow to remarry, however, a severe inhuman regulation of adat on separation
of a widow from her children in the case of her marrying again often becomes the
reason that young widows are doomed to widowhood till her old age.
This inhuman regulation made Niyaz-bibi Atabai-kazi (see above p. 23-25)
lie in the court in order not to be separated from her children. It is necessary
to highlight that according to shariat a widow cannot be deprived of the right
over her children, unlike adat, therefore if she would have wished to act in her
own way by suppressing her mother feelings, nobody would have prevented it.
it is needed to state that to some extent a Turkmen woman’s position is better
than the women strictly following the shariat. Turkmen women have more freedom
in choosing husbands. It happens due to the following reasons.
According to shariat a fornication by action is less criminal than a
fornication by eyes, therefore in order not to lead a man into sin, shariat
requires from women to conceal their faces. Hence, shariat commentators
interpret that a bridegroom has no right to look at his bride and matchmaking
date has to be fixed through relatives. On such conditions the bridegroom and
the bride have no opportunity to know each other. On the contrary, Turkmen women
do not conceal their faces and do not avoid men (except only Turkmen women
living near the border with Persian auls conceal the lower part of their faces
under the Persian influence) therefore the Turkmen bride and groom despite the
fact that the matchmaking date and the kalym amount are solved through third
parties, they have ample opportunity to know each other before marriage, more
over in most cases they have close contact from their childhood.
Division of Turkmens by origin
from Turkmens are divided into three categories:
born as a result
of a legal marriage of a Turkmen
man to a Turkmen woman
as a result of a
Turkmen man’s cohabitation with a non-Turkmen woman (Persian, Afghan)
pure-blooded Turkmens are called “ig”, the second “kul”, which means
“slave’. “Kul” are called the children born from a legal non-Turkmen
wife as well as from a concubine “kyrnak”.
the custom pure-blooded Turkmens
“ig” as well as “kul” have equal property rights, however in all other
aspects the pure-blooded Turkmens look down upon “kul”.
not marry the pure-blooded “ig” to a man “kul”. Only very rich “kul”
by paying a huge amount of kalym can marry a very poor woman “ig”.
Pure-blooded Turkmen men do not marry” kul” though kalym is much
lower; they prefer to pay much more kalym in order to marry pure-blooded women.
Illegitimate children are very rare. Turkmens call them “heramzade” or “veled-e-zena”.
The first word means forbidden born, the 2nd means- fornication
child. The birth of an illegitimate child is shameful for any Turkmen family. In
account of this the relatives of pregnant girls despite the fact that shariat
allows it, try to marry them off as soon as possible for a very low kalym.
During independent Turkmenistan, after giving birth, those women were driven out
of the aul. A mother driven away from her parents’ house, failing to find
shelter at her relatives killed her baby.
According to the ancient Turkmen custom male relatives never brought a
suit on kalym for the illegitimate girl-bride. Now such suits are brought to the
Court, but the custom keepers –People’s Judges reject motivating their
refusal by the fact that only the mother of the illegitimate child can use
illegal money. The Extraordinary
Congress of the People’s Judges considered such a suit in winter 1895. A
Turkmen man requested kalym for a pregnant girl who had found shelter in his
late brother’s house on the condition that the later will marry her after the
birth of her child. (Neither shariat, nor adat allows to marry the pregnant,
though later Turkmens started to marry pregnant women. However, the man died;
the petitioner, his brother, in account that the woman’s relatives were
absent, and regarding himself as the closest person requested kalym when the
illegitimate girl wanted to marry. The Court dismissed the case.
Kalym was given in the favor of the mother. It is hard to believe that
since the Russian rule fornicatresses stopped to kill their illegitimate
children. The fact that no suits were brought to the Court does not mean that
the Turkmens became more moral, it means that after the increase of kalym, a
Turkmen man became less scrupulous in choosing a wife and would marry a
fornicatress because she was cheaper. Moreover, this was in the favour of the
fornicatress as according to shariat if a fornicatress gave birth within 6
months after the marriage, a child was considered legitimate even against her
Illegitimate children at their full age, according to the custom were
equaled to kul on property rights. Sometimes they used land and water as other
aul people and participated in public meetings. According to the custom the
illegitimate inherited the property if he was adopted by his father.
Though the custom recognized that a baby lives 9 moths and 10 days in his
mother’s womb, and if a father was absent more than this term the child would
be regarded as illegitimate. However, thanks to the influence of the shariat a
woman can achieve that the People’s Court will recognize the baby as
legitimate; in this case some witnesses are needed, men or women who would be
able to certify that the baby was born later than 9 months and 10 days, as the
result of a disease that influenced the duration of the pregnancy and the Court
in most cases recognizes the legitimacy of the baby. Illegitimate children as
well as children not recognized by their fathers (for instance born earlier than
6 months after the mother’s marriage) inherit after mothers and after fathers
only in case of their adoption.
the custom of adoption existed from ancient times. Mostly boys are adopted by
rich Turkmens who don’t have children of their own and want that somebody will
inherit their property after their death; girls are adopted very seldom.
An adopted boy is called “kiametlyk ogly”, i.e. son forever. Every
adult Turkmen man having his own, separated from his parents’ household has
the right to adopt. Married women, men and girls living with their parents can
adopt: the 1st- with their husband’s consent, the 2nd
and the 3rd –with the consent of their parents. A widow has the
right to adopt without the consent of the relatives, but in this case, the
adopted has no right to inherit property after the death of the widow’s
Orphans can be
adopted as well as children having parents, but in this case the consent of the
parents is needed. The age for adoption is not limited by the custom. Foster or
adopted children enjoy the same rights provided by the custom as well as
inheritance rights like as if they were biological children of their adoptive
parents. According to the custom the adopted children have the same
responsibilities towards their new parents as any biological child. The custom
does not allow adopted persons to marry foster parents as well as their
There is no
specific ceremony on adoption. Usually a foster parent having secured the
consent of the parents or relatives, or tutors (if a child is an orphan),
declares the adoption in the aul meeting and celebrates this event.
There are no written acts on adoption, no prayings. The number of adopted
children is unlimited. The custom does not recognize adoption by force,
therefore if it is proven that a Turkmen man has a child from his unlawful (or
illicit) cohabitation with a women, nobody can force him to adopt this child.
Also, if somebody finds a child or a child is left at a kibitka, the custom does
not force the owner of the kibitka where the child was found, to adopt the
child. According to the custom the owner of the kibitka has to look for the
child’s parents and give them their child. In case if the parents are not
found a child can stay in the house of the owner on the condition that on
reaching the full age he has to work in order to pay for his rearing. If the
child is a girl, upon marriage kalym is paid to the person who found her and
reared her. If a person who found the child does not want to take the child,
then it is announced in the aul where there are couples without children who
agree to take this child.
taken more readily as in the future, upon her getting married, kalym will be
paid for them. It is needed to mention that neither custom, nor shariat provided
a person who found a child with the right to adopt that child.
According to the custom a poor widower with small children, who has no
female relatives, and is not able to rear the children, brings his children to
the mosque and declares ff from his children in favour of others wishing to take
them and rear them. A father refusing his child is called “songy-hostar”.
Parents’ power over their
well as people having a lower level of social development, have a great power
over their children. The Turkmen custom based on patriarchal order provides
parents with the right to require from their children complete obedience and
respect is the responsibility not only of children towards their parents but,
according to the custom, the responsibility of young people in general towards
elder, in particular old people (aksakals and yashuli, it means white-bearded,
elders), influential persons.
treatment, non-execution of request, moreover an insult of an old man or
honorable person is very shameful not only for the guilty person but for his
relatives as well. The custom provides parents with the right to involve the
children in work, according to their physical abilities and capacities. The
custom recommends parents first to use domestic measures towards their lazy,
disobedient children: remarks, talks, warnings, and if it does not help then
beating and as a last resort asking them to leave the home and depriving them of
Usually, if domestic measures are not effective, parents address elder
relatives, honorable persons of aul to help them. Nevertheless, children have
inheritance rights after their parents’ death.
The Turkmen custom does not allow disobedience to parents: a person from
his childhood sees a servile respect of children towards their parents and
becomes sure that the responsibility to obey parents is the main responsibility
of people in their life.
complaints on their parents’ cruel treatment towards them are, in most cases,
not considered by the People’s Courts.
custom as well as shariat allows children not to obey their parents in forcing
them in apostasy, crime, theft, alcohol and drug abuse, particularly girls as
well as widows when they are forced to marry.
They say that
in ancient times, the custom of killing the children monsters (mazardat) existed
in Turkmenia, but later this barbarian custom disappeared. At present parents
can kill their children for fornication with their sisters, mother, one of the
father’s wives or relative, and go unpunished.
In general one
can say that Turkmens by nature love children; particularly they treat small
children very well.
In Turkmen families the division of children is in separated from their
parents and non-separated. Turkmens separate their sons mostly after their
marriage and payment of kalym for wives. Junior sons in both poor and rich
families are very seldom separated.
children cannot own (or use) property of their parents without their consent;
the custom does not allow them to contract any property bargains as well as have
commitments, therefore sale and purchase and other bargains made by
non-separated children are regarded invalid. Parents are responsible for the
debts of their non-separated children, if they got into debt having their
obliges the parents to keep their son until he is 15, to educate him, assist him
to pay kalym, while regarding their daughter- to marry her off. The parents’
power over their children is ended, towards their sons on final separation,
towards their daughters, upon receipt of the entire kalym.
The custom commits children to keep their old parents, grandfather and
grandmother if they are poor; if they have any property, their keeping is based
on it, but not on children’s and grandchildren’s property.
15 years old
is regarded full age for property issuance. Hence, in case of a father’s
death, an orphan under 15 has a trustee (or tutor) called “vasy”.
According to the custom, trustees have to manage the property of the
under aged, who cannot conclude agreements or terms without the consent of their
trustees. In a Turkmen family, after the father’s death usually the mother of
the orphans becomes the trustee of her children, until they reach the full age.
This custom is contrary to shariat, according to which if an orphan has male
relatives his mother cannot be a trustee over his (child) property. In a Turkmen
family, the mother cannot be the trustee only in case when she is not able to
manage her children’s property because of her illness.
married again, the mother-trustee is deprived of trusteeship over her small
children’s property. However, if she marries her late husband’s relative,
she remains the trustee over the property of her children from her first
husband. If the close relative cannot be a trustee, the aul community chooses
one out of the other relatives; if there are no relatives then an honest,
respectable person is chosen out of the community. There can be only one
trustee. According to the custom the following persons cannot be trustees over
under aged children’s property: 1) under aged; 2) crazy; 3) turned out of the
community; 4) being under trial; 5) opium abuser; 6) considered unreliable by
The report on managing the property has to be submitted to the relatives
under the trusteeship child, and if there are no relatives, to the aul
community. Before the Russian ruling, a trustee submitted a report on managing
the property to the kazi who in such cases was guided by shariat, imposing
specific care of kazi on trusteeship supervision.
disloyal actions of a trustee are investigated in the People’s Court.
According to the custom, besides managing the property, a trustee has the
responsibility to be a father for an under trusteeship child.
A trustee is subject to no other punishment except property
responsibility even if it is proved that he is guilty for damage.
Regulations of adat related to wasters is an evidence of how much the
Turkmen custom is concerned about the property of every Turkmen person. Though
Turkmens are by nature very economical, there are still some wasters among them.
Adat provides relatives and wives with the right to prevent from property
In all times,
the property issues of the Turkmen family were solved according to the rules and
regulations of the shariat; shariat regulations are not stated in this book as
you can find them in any manual (or handbook) of Muslim law.
As concerns adat deviations from shariat, called “tereke” only two
can be pointed out:
A Turkmen wife
after his husband’s death, besides her widow part, is allowed by the shariat
to also inherit “mulk” (complete property right for land usage) with the
right of using it either until her death or before getting married, but before
transferring it to somebody. Upon the death of a widow or on her getting
married, “mulk” is inherited by the close relatives of the late husband.
property of a dead person having no relatives has to be inherited according to
shariat by imam or sultan. As there were neither imams (holy men of Mohammedans)
nor sultans in Turkmenia, the property is inherited by his close friend or close