October 28, 2015 – One of Central Asia’s most secretive nations, Turkmenistan, is accused of destroying the homes of around 50,000 of its own people to make way for the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
One of Central Asia’s most secretive nations has been accused of bulldozing the homes of thousands of its own people to make way for a sporting tournament.
Amnesty International says about 50,000 people have been forced out of their homes in Turkmenistan, which is currently preparing to host the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
Amnesty has released satellite images which it says show 5,000 houses, each home to an average of five people, were destroyed in the capital Ashgabat between March 2014 and April this year.
It says an entire neighbourhood of more than 10,000 homes was also knocked to the ground last month, and demolitions are continuing on other parts of the capital.
“The ruthless way in which they have been evicted is in clear violation of international human rights standards,” Amnesty, which is banned in Turkmenistan, said in a statement.
“Turkmenistan’s government must immediately put an end to forced evictions and illegal demolitions, compensate the victims and give them access to adequate alternative housing urgently.
“They are especially vulnerable as winter approaches.”
Amnesty also quoted former Choganly residents who it said described how police and other authorities “burst in like tanks” to evict them.
One resident interviewed for the report said bulldozed pits were all that were left and added: “Now people go there to cry.”
The Asian Games were awarded to Turkmenistan in 2010 and will feature an eclectic mix of sports including futsal, chess, billiards and wrestling.
But the games, which Australia has been invited to, will be taking place under the watch of one of the region’s most repressive governments.
Turkmenistan’s president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov rules one of the most closed countries in the world.
The Central Asian nation remains entirely cut off from any independent human rights scrutiny, according to a report by Human Rights Watch published a week ago.
United Nations staff and non-government organisations are denied access to the country.
In its latest World Report, HRW says Mr Berdymukhamedov, his relatives and their associates maintained unlimited control over all aspects of public life in Turkmenistan.
Freedom of expression, association and religion are almost non-existent. The president’s rule is one of personality cult rather than pluralism.
On taking power he adopted the title “Arkadag” (protector), and one human rights group reported that students at a school in Ashgabat were obliged to make a pledge to become his “faithful sons and daughters”.