Authorities in the capital of Turkmenistan launched an ambitious policy of urban renewal in the southern part of the city in the 1990s. The effort has ushered in skyscrapers, exclusive apartments, and public parks in Ashgabat. But it has come at heavy cost to the thousands of people forced from their homes to make way for development.
Shirin-daiza, or Auntie Shirin, is nearly 70. She lives with her three orphaned grandchildren in a rented space in Sumbar, one of Ashgabat's poorest neighborhoods.
Shirin-daiza has no home of her own, she cannot read or write, and she receives no state pension. She survives from the kindness of others -- begging in the streets to feed herself and the children. She says her rent is paid "in the name of God" by a pious man who she says has taken pity on her.
Shirin-daiza gave interviews to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service in which she talks about her plight. She subsequently told us that since her story was broadcast in early April, she has grown weary of visits by police and wants nothing so much as to leave the city that has brought her so much grief.
'A Jackal Wouldn't Set Foot There'
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RFE/RL Turkmen Service director Oguljamal Yazliyeva contributed to this report.