The mayor of Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk) has taken residents of a small village called “Burnak” to court, demanding that they vacate their houses. The land will allegedly be used for planting pine trees, but the citizens believe that their plots of land have already been sold to the local businesspeople. This is yet another forced eviction campaign at the Avaza National Tourist Zone in the western part of Turkmenistan.
The village of Burnak was built in the Soviet years by the local oil refinery, and its 24 houses were given to large families. For 25 years the citizens lived there happily, with all the paperwork for the state-owned houses. However, in 2015 a new mayor was appointed – Amangeldy Isaev, a former mayor of Garabogaz (former Bekdash), and things changed for the worse.
Isaev demanded that the villagers leave their houses, even though he could not show them the official eviction order. The villagers refused to leave, so the local authorities cut off the electricity, gas and water supply for two months. People had to prepare food outside. After numerous complaints, access to utility supply was restored, but then the mayor signed his own order to plant pine trees in this area, and took the stubborn citizens to court.
“Naturally, we lost this case, – villagers reported. – The Appeal Court in Balkanabad also ruled in favor of the mayor, although there was no actual hearing: hello, here is our decision, goodbye.”
The village residents are now waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court of Turkmenistan, but the bailiffs, accompanied by the police and prosecutors, are already forcing people out of their houses. The people are supposed to move to the new official apartments that were built for military personnel, police officers and security forces out of town. Some of these apartments are designated for Avaza hotel staff who are expected to buy them out gradually. Yet, the municipal authorities have been slow to issue property orders and register villagers in these apartments.
“We are ready to move into the new house, even though our big families that sometimes consist of 15 members will have to share 50-meters’ apartments, but we want to have all the necessary documents,” they told to ATN. The judge in Turkmenbashi gave them some “good” advice: the apartment house has spacious basements, and if it gets too tight, they can make a room in the dryers’ premises.
Responding to villagers’ requests to obtain legal documents for the new apartments, the mayor’s office suggested that apartment keys would serve as the guarantee, as they don’t have an official order to issue any documents.
“But any monitoring commission could just take our keys and kick us out in the street, we will become homeless!” residents said.
Twenty out of the 24 village houses have already been demolished. These families have moved into the new apartments and have been living there since February. The authorities let them be so far, but the villagers are positive that the “peace” will last only until the complete destruction of the village. They say that the authorities tried to plant pine trees in the area before, but none had taken root. There are rumors that the mayor Isaev has long since sold these land plots to the local entrepreneurs for construction purposes. With the Caspian Sea just 200 meters away, it’s a desirable piece of land.
The villagers intend to visit the UN office in Ashgabat with their problem, even though the national security authorities have warned them against complaining anywhere, threatening “to create problems for their children when they apply to higher education institutions.”
Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) has obtained a copy of the official court decision that orders Avaza District Administration to perform the eviction on August 17, 2016, at 10 a.m. The court obliges local police department, emergency service and ambulance to be present during the eviction.
Legal experts in Ashgabat told ATN that mayor Isaev’s reference to the lack of an official order to issue property papers is groundless. According to Article 72 of the Housing Code of Turkmenistan, the decision to grant state-owned residential premises from the local housing stock is made by the local authorities, i.e. local administrations. Based on this decision the local City Hall issues property papers, which serve as the basis for moving into a dwelling.
“If the mayor is ready to settle people in that house, it means that the house has received the state commission’s approval for its use to begin, therefore the mayor could not have other reasons not to issue property papers — this is only his decision,» lawyers said, adding that without due property papers the court’s decision is illegal.
In 2010 the authorities demolished villages of Tarta and Avaza, both on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Media reported that the state provided no compensation to their inhabitants.