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Authorities meet with fire hit market-traders after Makhachkala protest

13 November 2017
The protest of Makhachkala market-traders (Aida Mirmaksumova /OC Media)

Around 100 traders from the Dagelektromash market, which burnt down in Makhachkala this spring, have met with the local administration, after taking to the central square of the city.

A fire broke out on Dagelektromash market, one of the largest clothing markets in the city, on 31 March. According to official reports, the fire covered an area 1,000 square meters, affecting 400 stalls, but traders say the real number was 17,900 square metres, destroying 1,460 stalls.

Around 100 traders, mostly women, gathered in central square of Makhachkala at 10:00 on 9 November, demanding a meeting with interim head of Daghestan Vladimir Vasilyev. At around 13:00, three of the protesters were allowed in to meet him. They were accompanied by the deputy head of Makhachkala administration Magomed Magomedov.

Video from the rally (Aida Mirmaksumova /OC Media)

Was the fire accidental?

The traders claim that the fire was not caused due to negligence, as there was no one in the market on the day it caught fire. They also claim to have spoken to a witness who saw two cars with government number plates driving into the market.

‘As soon as [Musa] Musayev became mayor he immediately announced that our market would be moved somewhere. “This is a cardboard-box market. It is a shame to have such a market in the centre of the city in 21st century”. Isn’t it shameful to burn people in 21st century, throw them out into the streets?’ one protester asked.

One of the traders named Pari says that when the traders came to the market to save their products from their stalls, police didn’t let them in.

‘Hoses from fire hydrants were lying on the floor, no one was trying to extinguish the burning goods. The firemen said that they hadn’t been ordered to do so’, Pari remembers.

‘They could have just told us that the market was closing down and that we had to leave it. Why would they treat us like this? Why did they have to burn our goods?’, Zumrud, another activist asks.

Minor compensation

The protesters say the compensation that has been allocated, around ₽6,800 ($120) each, is far too little.

‘Abdulatipov (former head of Daghestan) called us "unscrupulous taxpayers". But we were paying everything. The quarterly tax from our market was ₽25 million ($420,000)’, one protester said.

Pari says that she had three stalls at the market, all of which were destroyed as well as a warehouse. Three employees who worked for her have also lost their jobs.

‘It’s been eight months, I just sit and cannot do anything. When I say there is no job I am always told: “go, work as a maid”. I don’t want to work as a maid, I am an entrepreneur’, Pari remarks.

‘They had to protect our goods’

When the traders emerged from the government offices at 15:00 with Magomedov, they told protesters that the government administration did not know that the market’s administration still had not compensated victims of the fire.

‘[Parliamentary Chair Abdusamad Gamidov] promised to help us. He said that the management of the market has to fulfil our demands. Under the contract, they had to protect our goods, but they did not. Now they will be called [to meet the government] and they will discuss the issue of compensation. If the market management will not fulfil our demands we will sue them. Gamidov promised to support us in court’, the women remarked.

They also said that Gamidov had promised to help a fund created to support traders affected by the fire by confiscating an equivalent of one day’s income from ‘large businessmen’.

The meeting between the parliamentary chair and the market’s management is scheduled to take place on 14 November.

Magomedov refused to give a comment to OC Media saying ‘they are asking for money, they want compensation. You should ask others what they want. I already gave interview to a newspaper yesterday. Do I have to give interview every day? Am I an artist for you, or what?’ he told us.

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