The start of the new year saw the arrival of a new policy in Turkmenistan’s capital. There have been numerous reports of impounding of black vehicles without a warning or explanation since the dawn of the new year. Police have started to return these black cars only on the condition that the owners paint them white or another light color.
Black cars have now been made illegal in the city of Ashgabat. According to a number of independent sources, the police started towing cars to government parking lots on the 1st of January and owners found out from parking lot guards or their neighbors that their car has been towed. No explanation was offered and when the owners contacted the police, they were informed that they could take the cars if they promised to paint the black cars white.
To be honest, this was a long time coming. There have been a number of similar incidences in the past and it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Turkmenistan banned the import of black cars back in 2015 and there was no explanation other than the fact that “white brings good luck”. Then, in November last year, government officials were ordered to drive white vehicles only.
What is the reason black cars are frowned upon in the country? According to an article published in 2015, “white has long been a feature of the carefully constructed personality cult of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. The former dentist has draped his capital Ashgabat in white marble, rides white stallions, and makes appearances dressed in white amid white carpets and white flower arrangements.”
This new rule has hit a lot of citizens very hard. Having to repaint the car just because the president doesn’t like the color hardly seems fair and it does not come cheap. “When I came to the car service, I was told that the repainting my car would cost 7,000 manat, but in a week the price would rise to 11,000 manat,” one Ashgabat resident who had his car impounded told Radio Azatlyk. “My salary is 1,000 manat, so even if I save up all of it, I will be forced to spend all my annual income on this paint job.”
Even though the government has not officially acknowledged that the ban on black cars was just because of the personal preference of the president, it is no secret that was the driving force behind the decision. Let’s wait and see before this ban spreads to the whole country.