President of Turkmenistan bans black cars from his capital city


Black cars are being impounded in Turkmenistan’s capital because the country’s president considers white to be lucky, local media have reported. For the last few weeks, dark-coloured vehicles have been seized by police in Ashgabat and their owners told they must pay to have them repainted silver or white. The capital, known as the ‘City of White Marble’, holds the world record for the highest concentration of white marble buildings. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov – around whom a personality cult has grown – is a known lover of white, living in a white palace and travelling in white limousines. But his passion for pale is causing huge financial strain on owners of black cars, who face enormous costs for paint work. It comes as women have reportedly been banned from driving in Turkmenistan because they have been accused of causing most car accidents. One man who drives in the capital told Radio Free Europe he was quoted a price of 7,000 manats (£1,500) for a paint job – in a country where the average salary is about £250 a month. He added: ‘My salary is 1,000 manats (£210), so even if I don’t spend any money anywhere, I will be forced to hand over pretty much my entire annual salary just to repaint.’ Two years ago, Turkmenistan banned the import of black cars, according to RIA Novosti. President Berdimuhamedov also reportedly outlawed imports of coupes, personalised number plates and tinted windows. He is also believed to have forced apartment buildings to remove their air conditioning units to guarantee the pure appearance of his shining white capital. Human rights groups and opponents of the president have long accused him of repression since he came to power in 2007. The country also recently banned women from driving, according to local media. Female drivers have reportedly been stopped by police and told not to drive or face a fine. Some women say their licences and even their cars have been confiscated. One female resident of the capital, who did not wish to be named, told local press: ‘At first, I thought this was a joke – until I was stopped. Now women are afraid to drive and ask their husbands to drive them to and from work.’ Other reports said that state employers had made women employees sign statements promising not to get behind the wheel.


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