Turkmenistan: Crisis hots up in air-con dispute

Air conditioning units on the outside of buildings in Turkmenistan Image copyright Chrono-tm.org
Image caption People will have to pay to have their air conditioning removed

It seems that some residents of Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat are feeling the heat after authorities demanded they remove the air-conditioning units on the exterior walls of their flats to improve the city's appearance.

Fights have broken out in the central Parakhat-7 district between residents and police in protest at the unpopular government directive, according to Ferghana.ru, a Moscow-based news agency reporting on Central Asia. Over the last few years, the municipal authorities have been removing what they consider to be unsightly air-con units and satellite dishes as part of a plan to revamp buildings and standardize their appearance.

The average temperature in Ashgabat in summer is more than 40C and in multi-storey blocks of flats it can rise to 60C. "Leaving people, especially old, sick people and children, without air-cons means subjecting them to torture," the Turkmen opposition Chrono-tm.org website says.

The residents in Parakhat-7 were relocated there by force as part of the reconstruction plan, a regional BBC journalist says. They were re-housed in smaller flats with no compensation for being forced to move. Although the flats are new, they are said to be in poor condition already, with malfunctioning sewage systems. The district lies close to streets which the Turkmen president regularly uses.

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