In the Region
The Breadline Beatings in Turkmenistan
As preparations were underway to open Turkmenistan’s new five-billion-dollar “smart city,” some 18 miles away in Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat, a man was beaten in a dispute over bread.
RFE/RL’s Turkmen service, known as Azatlyk, reported on the assault.
Around 5:40 am on June 24, people were lining up to buy bread from a store that is supposed to sell bread at the state-subsidized price of one manat (about $0.28).
The limit is three loaves per person.
On that day, the storekeeper was selling bread for 1.5 manats and he had only about 40 loaves.
In plain view of those in line, the vendor sold one customer what the report described as “much more bread” than the three-loaf limit.
Bread-sellers at Turkmen state stores have new power in these days of rationing.
People waiting in line kept quiet to avoid doing anything that might anger the bread-seller and endanger their chances of procuring bread.
The crowd’s silence did not pay off.
Shortly after selling the one customer all those loaves, the storekeeper announced all the bread was gone and started to close up shop.
At that point, a young man in the line grabbed the vendor by the collar and hit him in the face a couple of times.
There was no information about whether the young man was detained.
The assault in Ashgabat was not unique.
On June 4, a female employee at a state store in the Caspian coastal town of Turkmenbashi was attacked when the ration-packages ran out.
On June 4, local residents were informed the ration packages they should have received in February would finally arrive on June 5.
Hundreds of people were waiting when the store opened in the morning.
When the woman running the store told the people the packages had not arrived, some women in the crowd attacked the saleswoman.
Some people broke the store windows.
Police arrived later. They intended to view footage from local surveillance cameras, but reportedly, the cameras were out of order.
Why It’s Important: Turkmen citizens are aware that authorities deal severely with public acts of defiance or violence and punishment can be harsh.
But the economic crisis in Turkmenistan is in its eighth year.
Many low-income families in Turkmenistan depend on these packages of basic goods such as flour and cooking oil, and on state-subsidized bread.
How much food could the government have bought with the $5 billion being spent on a vanity city?
Not long ago it was scuffles between people waiting in line, but now anger is turning on those selling or distributing state-subsidized goods.
How much longer will it be before that anger is directed toward the officials wasting money on useless projects while the population goes hungry?