Turkmenistan: forced evictions in Aşgabat neighbourhoods

Open Letter
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Open letter addressed to Mayor of Aşgabat, Myratniyaz Abilov.

Dear Mr. Abilov,

On behalf of FIDH and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, we are writing to you in your capacity as Mayor of Aşgabat. We urge upon you to take urgent action to remedy the consequences of recent forced evictions in Aşgabat city.

We have been informed about a wave of forced evictions conducted since March 2015 in Aşgabat’s neighbourhoods Choganly [1] and Shor dachaa [2] as well as on the Chekhov street [3]. In total, about 30 000 residential buildings were destroyed in Choganly and Shor dacha neighbourhoods and a few dozen apartment buildings on Chekhov street.

Recent forced evictions preceded mass demolition of private real estate property in the above mentioned areas leaving roughly one hundred thousand of inhabitants homeless. The city administration did not plan alternative housing solutions for all community members. Only part of the community obtained apartments as a compensation for demolished property while the rest have not received any compensation or information concerning indemnity. We have been informed that the latter were suggested to reside at their relatives for an indefinite period of time, in violation of their right to adequate housing.

Moreover, the affected communities were not provided with adequate prior information about the reasons behind the evictions. According to the information received, the possible reason might be the city’s preparation for future international sports events, namely the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. The territorial plan of the games’ site has unfortunately not been made public. Thus communities that might be affected by the upcoming construction plans are not duly informed. We therefore urge you to share any future eviction plans with the communities concerned and engage with them in a meaningful dialogue.

Moreover, the affected communities were also not given due advance notice about the decision concerning demolitions. As a result, the community’s right to timely challenge the decision or engage in meaningful negotiations with the authorities was undermined. Furthermore, we have been informed by reliable sources that residents opposing forced eviction faced harassment and intimidation on the part of the authorities. We remind that the General Comment No. 7 (20/05/97) issued by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights established that legal remedies should be provided to those who are affected by eviction orders.

We would like to express our deepest concern as these actions violate the right to adequate housing which is protected under the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Turkmenistan is a party. The said Covenant stipulates that the authorities must consult and give reasonable notice to affected communities and offer adequate alternative housing.

We thus call upon your administration to provide adequate remedies, including relocation and compensation, to communities already affected by illegal evictions, as well as to prevent similar future violations of the right to housing by providing legal protection and safeguards against forced evictions.

Yours sincerely,

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President
Farid Tuhbatullin, Chairman of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights

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