Hundreds of people have taken part in a rare protest in Turkmenistan to call attention to the government’s failure to help repair damage caused by recent wind and rainstorms that devastated eastern parts of the country.
The deputy mayor of Turkmenistan’s eastern city of Turkmenabat reportedly came out to on May 14 to meet some of the demonstrators, who gathered to seek help for damage to their homes and a loss of electricity caused by the storms in April and May.
The authoritarian government of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov does not tolerate dissent or public demonstrations, making the protest highly unusual.
The website Turkmen.news reported on May 15 that the official, whose name was not given, arrived in the Zhelezhnodoroga district of Turkmenabat accompanied by police to discuss the start of clean-up efforts.
RFE/RL confirmed there was a large protest in that district involving at least several hundred people demanding the government restore electricity that was cut off by the torrential storms.
They also asked for help to clear away debris and pump out water that had collected in basements throughout the district and that continues to damage structures.
A windstorm on April 27 was followed by heavy rains on May 4 and again on May 13. Residents complain that besides damage to their homes, standing water in their basements has brought mosquitoes.
The protest represented the largest demonstration in Turkmenistan since independence in 1991 and comes as the country endures a serious economic downturn that has led to shortages of basic goods and sharp cuts in social benefits.