19 june 2018

Central Asia news

HRW and TIHR claim massive violations of housing rights by Ashgabat authorities

04.09.2017 19:06 msk


Human rights organisations Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) published on 4 September a joint "Turkmenistan: Homeowners Evicted, Denied Compensation" report.

The major stadium of Turkmenistan is "Ashgabat," where it will host the Asian Games. Built in 2009-2011, its capacity - 20 thousand people. Photos from Skyscrapercity.com

The report says that on the eve of the 5th Asian Games in Indoor and Martial Arts (Asian Games), which will start on 17 September, the Turkmen authorities forcibly evict homeowners in Ashgabat without compensation. They continue to systematically demolish extensions and additional structures to impart an identical image to the whole city, denying their owners with the possibility of judicial review.

“Thousands of people have been deprived of their property or left in squalid housing, in order to transform Ashgabat into a white marble city and to prepare for the games,” said Farid Tuhbatillin, TIHR’s executive director. “The games will last all of 10 days, but people left with inadequate or no housing will suffer for years to come unless they are properly compensated.”

“The authorities are trying to boost Turkmenistan’s international prestige by hosting the AIMAG,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But no one will be impressed by how monstrously they are cheating residents out of their homes and bullying homeowners.”

The report notes that the seizure of real estate, the eviction of people and the demolition of houses have been taking place in Ashgabat for almost two decades, and all this time accompanied by grave violations of the right to private property and adequate housing, both human rights organisations note. However, in the past five years, the extent and intensity of the demolition and violations of these rights have increased markedly in the context of preparations for the Asian Games.

Owners of demolished houses are entitled to receive either "equivalent" housing or cash compensation, but in many cases documented by TIHR and Human Rights Watch, the coverage provided by the apartment was significantly cheaper than the total value of the seized property or too close to the family.

In many cases, households, sometimes consisting of ten to fifteen people, received only a two- or three-room apartment. In other situations, the owners of housing were evicted even before the flats intended for resettlement were rented, as a result of which people had to rent their homes for their money for some time. Some have faced inadequate quality of compensatory housing, including leakage in ceilings, faulty lifts and other problems.

[Satellite images recorded the Shore Dacha area on the outskirts of Ashgabat before the demolition of houses and after. The top image was taken on 11 June 2010, the lower one shot on 11 August 2016. Photo from HRW website]

The authorities also forced owners to agree to "improved" resettlement options - but with the payment of the difference between the estimated value of the seized housing and a new apartment, which in one case amounted to the equivalent of $ 25,000. At the same time, the registration of new housing as a property tied to the payment of the full amount.

Residents of Ashgabat, who tried to challenge the removal of houses or to seek better conditions for compensation, faced a denial of the right to a fair trial, threats to become homeless, and in some cases - harassment or intimidation by the authorities.

HRW and TIHR claim that the evictions of people and the demolition of houses in Ashgabat are contrary to Turkmenistan's obligations to ensure the right to adequate housing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the country ratified in 1997.

The report cites cases of the complete removal of housing, inadequate compensation or denial in it, the facts of the inadequate state of the housing provided by the state, in compensation, threats and harassment, and so on.

The full text of the report is available here.

Fergana News Agency