Evictions Leave Residents High and Dry in Uzbek Capital

Evictions Leave Residents High and Dry in Uzbek Capital

Thursday, 5 November, 2009
Residents of areas subject to redevelopment in the Uzbek capital Tashkent are unhappy at the peremptory way that eviction orders have been applied, and at the low level of compensation they are being offered for leaving their homes.

In early October, the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan issued a press release which said resident’s rights were being ignored as an urban regeneration project affecting the city’s Yakkasaray district went ahead.

As part of a general strategy to give the capital a facelift, the city authorities contracted a foreign construction firm to redevelop the area with new multistorey buildings including offices and places of entertainment.

The area in question is currently occupied by apartment blocks and single-story houses built in the Soviet era, some of them dilapidated and others in decent condition.

The foreign firm has been negotiating the terms on which residents will move out, and some buildings have already come down.

Many people are reluctant to leave this central location and say the money they are being offered means they could only afford a place on the outskirts of Tashkent, a sprawling city.

One woman who owns a small detached house says she is being “intimidated” by a company representative, who she says has hinted that a crane might “accidentally” knock off her roof.

Mirsaid Mirzoev, who has a three-room apartment in an apartment block, is also unhappy about the level of compensation.

“Our apartment is worth 75,000 [US] dollars, but managers of the construction firm are offering just 30,000 dollars as compensation,” he said, adding that this would only be enough to buy something far from the city centre.

A lawyer in Tashkent who asked to remain anonymous said the authorities were arbitrarily commanding people to leave, and were thereby committing a breach of Uzbekistan’s property law. The 1990 law and the constitution of Uzbekistan state that personal property is inviolable.

In addition, a government regulation dating from 2006 requires compensation for a home sequestered by the state to take the form of its actual value or “equivalent housing”.

In this case, the seizures are being justified by a local bylaw passed by Yakkasaray district’s leaders in 2007, which reduces the compensation payable to half of market value. That means that apartment owners will get between 17,000 and 27,000 dollars, depending on how many rooms they have. There are also other directives which say compensation should be assessed by the number of people living in a property rather than its size, a method which also results in a low valuation.

Commentators say the displaced residents have no real option except to take whatever money is on offer and move to the edge of the city

“I’ve never seen a case where demolishing homes and relocating their inhabitants has not been accompanied by rights violations,” said Oleg Sarapulov of the Human Rights Alliance. “The authorities are also planning to demolish residential quarters in Koyluk [suburban district] and along Uzbekistan Street [in the centre of town]. The compensation is only five million soms [3,330 dollars] per person.

“But we are planning continue defending residents’ rights and demanding appropriate housing from the construction firms.”

(NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service has resumed, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)
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