Rare Public Protest in Turkmen Capital
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||15 June 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Rare Public Protest in Turkmen Capital, 15 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dfb08292.html [accessed 24 July 2014]|
Demonstrations are almost unknown in Turkmenistan, so it was all the more surprising when about 50 people staged a June 8 protest outside a high-profile conference venue in the capital Ashgabat.
They were protesting against plans to demolish their homes in a southern district of the city, which the municipal authorities say were put up illegally.
The demonstrators decided to position themselves near the Oguzkent Hotel because Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov often attends events held in its conference rooms.
Police swiftly moved in and broke up the demonstration.
The area scheduled for demolition grew organically in the early years after Turkmenistan became independent in 1991, as people moved in and built their own homes. Over time, the houses increased in number and grew to two storeys. The whole area is jokingly known as "Nakhalstroy" – a mock-official term that translates roughly as "naughty building".
With no formalised right to the land, these residents have little chance of defending their claim to it in the courts.
"Our children and grandchildren were brought up here, and now the state wants our land," one of the demonstrators said.
In late May, a group of residents went to the municipal authorities to appeal against the urban redevelopment scheme that means their homes must be flattened. Officials told them the buildings stood in the way of an essential road-building project.
Owners are normally entitled to compensation if the government sequesters their property for the greater good. But this does not apply to anyone who for some reason has failed to register their title with the appropriate authorities. Most of those involved in the small protest movement fall into this category as they have no documentation proving ownership.
"When they came to demolish my home, they asked me to produce proof of registration, which I don't have," one woman said. "I am going to be left out in the open with no home."
The authorities in Turkmenistan have long been keen on clearing old buildings to make for new construction. Berdymuhammedov's predecessor Saparmurat Niazov changed the face of Ashgabat, demolishing much of the low-rise centre to install massive plate-glass buildings.
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.