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Turkmen Pop Star's Fate Unknown After Reported Drug Arrest In Iran

Nazir Habibov
Nazir Habibov

Having been previously convicted of a felony, imprisoned, and enduring widespread allegations of drug use, Turkmen pop star Nazir Habibov is no stranger to controversy.

But recent reports surrounding Habibov's latest troubles have shocked his fans, as it's claimed the 35-year-old singer was detained in Iran for narcotics possession and attempted drug smuggling.

Habibov is "awaiting trial in Iran" after being arrested with one of his band members on the Turkmen-Iranian border in March "with 20 grams of heroin," the independent reported.

The men were arrested while they were "under the influence of drugs and in possession of drugs," which they attempted to smuggle into Turkmenistan, the Europe-based news site reported, citing an unnamed source.

It also published photos that purportedly show the two men -- with their faces obscured -- as they were detained and the alleged drugs confiscated from them. claimed the photos were provided by a source at a Turkmen ministry.

RFE/RL cannot independently verify the allegations.

The source claimed that despite Iran's harsh punishment for drug-related crimes, it was unlikely that Habibov would face imprisonment or the "death penalty" in Iran.

"Turkmen authorities, most probably, will seek his extradition to try him at home," it reported.

Weeks later, the fate of the ethnic Azerbaijani singer and his alleged companion remains unknown.

Officials in secretive Turkmenistan have not publicly commented on the allegations, and the strictly controlled Turkmen media has made no mention of it. There have also been no reports in the Iranian media on the allegations surrounding the two Turkmen citizens.

Meanwhile, Habibov's wife, Margarita, has shared several posts on the pop star's Instagram site that hint at "trouble" and a "misunderstanding." She expressed hope that "everything will work out" and thanked Habibov's nearly 400,000 Instagram followers for their support.

Margarita didn't explicitly say her husband was in detention, but in response to online comments she indicated the family had been facing a "problem."

"There has been news all over social media that Nazir was released in Iran," a social-media user commented under Margarita's Instagram post.

"May God allow it to be so. There's been a misunderstanding here, we'll have to wait," Margarita replied.

"Trust me, they are sorting it out now, they say there has been a mistake," Margarita replied to another comment about Habibov's situation on social media.

Margarita also heaped praise on the country's authoritarian president, Serdar Berdymukhammedov, thanking him "enormously for his help to his people" and praying for "his health and many more years in power."

"Despite my current circumstances, I am very happy that we have such president," she wrote, with Habibov's overly flattering song about the president playing in the background.

Comments on social media indicate mixed feelings about Habibov's alleged detention. Most commenters expressed support for Habibov and his wife, telling them to "stay strong," while others criticized the singer, saying that "he should have known better."

One Instagram user offered help, writing, "I live in the Iranian city of Mashhad, I can help you with anything I can, if you need."

"I just want to hug you and support you," another fan wrote. "Everything will be fine."

"Your husband is very naive and it's difficult for such people to survive in this cruel world full of setups, even by friends," another wrote.

One Instagram user wrote that "justice must prevail" and that Habibov "must face the punishment he deserves before the law." Referring to Habibov's previous conviction, the Instagram user wrote that the state will not "forgive a drug user a second time."

In 2016, Habibov was convicted of the possession and distribution of narcotics. There were conflicting reports about the length of his sentence, with some sources saying it was for 12 years, while others reported it as 15 years. The singer was freed early in an amnesty in 2022.

Habibov has since released several songs praising the country's current and former presidents -- Serdar Berdymukhammedov and his father, Gurbanguly, who still holds great power in the country.

In October 2016, Turkmen state television paraded Habibov before the media handcuffed and remorseful over his "repeated drug use." It's unknown if his confession was genuine or made under duress.

Written by Farangis Najibullah in Prague based on reports by RFE/RL's Turkmen Service

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