A renowned Turkmen human rights defender, Natalya Shabunts, is trying to protect trees and shrubs from barbarous extermination by the public utilities staff initiated by the municipal authorities.
Plants around residential houses – the concrete buildings in the residential district Mir-2 – have been diligently grown by the community residents who try to create a greener environment in Ashgabat's hot climate. Many inhabitants hold permits issued in 1997 by the khyakimlik's office for the beautification of the land plots adjacent to the houses.
Several days ago, there was a grand opening of the multi-storey car park located near these houses which had also been built to replace a dilapidated park. We are planning to publish coverage of the car park opening ceremony soon.
Early the next morning people and equipment were sent to cut down and dig out trees growing around the houses adjacent to the car park.
A young man from the Kopetdag khyakimlik's office, who arrived after N. Shabunts had demanded that workers stop digging out the plants, said that this was for the beautification of the area and added: « Aren't you afraid of walking in the open? Beware of the consequences. Everybody who complains ends up on the black list. This may end up badly! »
Natalya Shabunts has heard such threats before. After one of her attempts to resist the actions by officials a bloodstained sheep's head was put by her door.
"According to officials, beautification means cutting down trees, breaking up benches and coating everything with asphalt,– a human rights defender says. – They are not concerned where the inhabitants can find shelter from the burning sun!"
As of now, despite the threats, N. Shabunts is not giving up her attempts to protect the remaining trees around the houses. The residents are also outraged and are offering her any help they can.