Spontaneous protest near Ashgabat

On January 10, in one of the holiday villages in the suburbs of Ashgabat, popularly referred to as "the Association of Gardeners Bakhar", a spontaneous protest was held. Protestors demanded the reopening of access roads from the village to the capital which had been cordoned off with concrete blocks following a decision of the authorities.

Holiday villages around Ashgabat – Chogandy, Shor, Karadamak, Bakhar and others – are inhabited mainly by people from the country's provinces who have come to the capital in search of jobs. It is quite expensive to rent an apartment in Ashgabat and for this reason visitors and their families rent semi-deserted summer houses which are often not equipped with the basic amenities.

According to various estimates some 15 thousand people reside on the outskirts of Ashgabat. Overcrowded living conditions of those people who have come from various provinces of Turkmenistan exacerbate social problems. Consequently, the crime rate in the villages has risen considerably.

Primarily, in order to combat crimes, the authorities decided to cordon off all roads connecting the villages to the capital. Concrete blocks were installed in many places while in others trenches were dug. Officials and law-enforcement officers thought that they would thus be better able to monitor the situation in the residential areas adjacent to Ashgabat.

Now, even a fire-fighting vehicle or an ambulance can hardly gain access to the villages let alone the local inhabitants who are forced to walk or make a detour.

The women who participated in the protest demanded that the city's khyakim pay a visit. But, referring to the fact that he was attending the extended Cabinet session that day, he did not turn up. It should be noted, however, that he sent his subordinates instead.

Upon arrival the latter heard many complaints and unflattering comments from the protesters. The village has no street lighting, no quality roads, and even the gas and electric power supply had been installed by the inhabitants themselves. The authorities, instead of resolving these problems, are creating new ones.

As a result the officials backed down. In the evening, the fences around the Association of Gardeners were removed. According to our information, the situation has not changed in the remaining villages, and the majority of access roads are still blocked.

When asked by our correspondent "Why did only women take part in the rally?" one of the female protesters said that "men would have been immediately arrested by the police and might have been beaten". Even though the police also arrived, they did not want to confront women.

Source: TIHR