Contact Lost with Ashgabat Resident Thrown Out of Her Home

Many people have got in touch with wanting to help Anna Kumykova, who was kicked out of her apartment in Ashgabat in the middle of December. However, we haven’t been able to contact Anna for almost a month. After published her video appeal to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Anna simply disappeared.

Anna Kumykova (right) with her daughters Hesel (middle) and Selbi first wrote about Anna’s problems on December 12. At that time she and her two daughters were still in their apartment. But during the night of December 14-15 they were evicted and their furniture and possessions carried out into the street. On December 16 we published Anna’s video appeal to the head of state.

We had communicated with Anna Kumykova through one of the messaging apps, but she closed her profile on December 17. She reappeared later and read our messages but did not reply. We are still unable to get through by phone to Anna or her daughters (on three different phone numbers) – supposedly the numbers are dialed wrong.

But when we called Anna on January 4, we were surprised to hear a boy of between 12 and 13 take the call. He couldn’t hear us properly though, or pretended that he couldn’t. Our “dialog” lasted 33 seconds.

It’s highly unlikely that the number could have been given to another subscriber so quickly. Perhaps Anna has been taken away and has left her telephone with her daughters, telling them not to answer it under any circumstances. But the boy, who seems to be in the same place as the daughters, happened to answer the phone. These are just assumptions, but what is fact is that Anna has lost contact with the outside world. She does not go online (though before this she was regularly on the internet) and does not answer calls. At our request, sources in Ashgabat have gone several times to what’s now her former home, but neither the Kumykov family nor their possessions are there any more.

Anna Kumykova bought her Ashgabat apartment 17 years ago “on trust” from family friends. Anna could not buy the apartment officially, as at that time she had lost her Turkmen citizenship, having lived for a year in Kazakhstan. Years later when she had regained her citizenship Anna tried to have the apartment registered in her name. Instead, in January 2019 former owner and family friend Valeriy Vassimirskiy submitted documents to privatize the apartment in his name. Despite Anna’s objections, the court accepted the application. Vassimirsky duly sold the apartment and left Turkmenistan.

Three different owners bought the one-room property and sought to turf Anna out, but each time the court ruled in her favor, refusing to allow a single mother and her children to be made homeless. The fourth person to buy the apartment in little more than a year, Korzhova, was a mother with four children and a fifth on the way. This time the court found in favor of the mother with four children and ruled that Anna had to leave. Anna is convinced that Korzhova is just a front for realtors. As she told, Korzhova did not once visit the apartment she was supposedly buying as her family home. Finally, during the night of December 14, 2020 Anna and her daughters found themselves homeless.

The Turkmen authorities respond harshly to any criticism, especially public criticism, as in Anna Kumykova’s case, and persecute anyone suspected of contact with independent Turkmen press and human rights organizations. For example, on September 15 Ashgabat resident Nurgeldi Halykov, 26, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for sending a photograph of the members of a visiting WHO delegation. Fabricated charges of fraud were brought against him: allegedly he borrowed a substantial sum of money from his friend Yuriy Rogusskiy in early 2020 and failed to return it. Reporters Without Borders has urged the OSCE representative on freedom of the media to press for Halykov’s release.