Security services quell a riot in a Turkmen market

Around two weeks ago, a riot broke out at the Abadan bazaar – a new region of Ashgabat. Customers wanted to buy chicken legs, but became disgruntled when they were faced with inflated prices.

“Chicken legs prices are regulated by the state,” a resident of Abadan told ATN. “The price is set at 14 manats per kilogram. Instead, the meat supply bypassed the state store and appeared directly on the shelves of local private traders at a price of 25 manats per kilogram, almost twice the price than in the state stores. The crowd grew angry and the scuffles turned into a riot.”

Eyewitnesses said that the dissatisfied customers protested loudly and tried to break into the store. They criticized price inflation, increased poverty and lack of jobs, and blamed President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and his policies for this. The commotion lasted for about 20 minutes. The crowd was then surrounded by men in plain clothes. They picked the most active protesters and knocked them to the ground, witnesses said.

In a brawl several people were first beaten and then carried away into police vehicles. Other protesters dispersed. After the situation at the bazaar became calmer, the men in plain clothes started questioning passers-by, asking if there were any more hot-heads around. The men in plain clothes then quickly left the scene.

The number of detained protesters and the consequences they faced remain unknown.

The fall in the manat against the US dollar has caused an increase in food prices in Turkmenistan. Importantly, inflation affected prices of imported as well as domestic goods. Authorities force shop keepers to slash prices through raids, inspections, and even physical presence at points of sale. In Turkmenbashi, for example, men in black suits preside near every counter selling meat, making sure the price stays at 18 manats per kilogram. In Mary, where control is looser, meat costs 25 manats. In the Belent shopping center in Mary one kilogram of beef costs on average 28 manats.

The sellers say they are forced to obey the authorities’ demands, because they are threatened with closure.