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Daghestanis fight to protect Makhachkala park

12 June 2017
Ak-Gel park (Change.org)

A group of activists in the Daghestani capital Makhachkala have began collecting signatures in an attempt to save the city’s Ak-Gel park.

The park is situated on the shores of the Ak-Gel lake in the eastern part of the city. It contains a historical museum of the city, a children’s amusement park, as well as hotels and restaurants.

At the end of last year, part of the park was fenced off. When local media outlets picked up the story, the city administration responded that the area was going to be renovated, with new trees planted and paths made.

However, several months ago activists learned that the city administration has allocated two sections of the park for construction of a restaurant and the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky. One hectare of the land was illegally seized from the park for the construction of the cathedral.

‘Makhachkala residents and their children literally languish since they do not have enough environmentally friendly places to walk and rest. And the construction of a large religious building on the remnants of the green zones of Makhachkala will only increase the discomfort of the townspeople’, the petition reads.

Journalist and activist Svetlana Anokhina told OC Media that she is outraged.

‘The park is being taken from all the townspeople. From everyone at once, without interest in their nationality or which god they are praying to’, she says.

‘Any Daghestani or Muslim who speaks of the inadmissibility of construction here is immediately labeled either a “nationalist” or a “religious fanatic”. Such a situation will complicate interethnic relations in the republic’, Anokhina adds.

Arsen Magomedov, an activist and lawyer, says that the activists do not plan to stop at collecting signatures.

‘We are preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court of Daghestan with a request to declare the allocation of land for construction illegal’, he told OC Media.

Civil activism has seen a surge in Daghestan since the beginning the year. In January activists protested to save Makhachkala’s Lenin Kosmomol Park, after officials announced planned to build a museum in the park. In March activists successfully protested against construction on the city beach in Kaspiysk, 14 km south of Makhachkala.

[Read on OC Media: Not indifferent; civil activism surges in Daghestan]