DUSHANBE, April 20, 2011, Asia-Plus -- Residents of a settlement near Dushanbe have staged a protest against the imminent demolition of their homes, which the government says were built illegally, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reports.

Tajik Prosecutor-General Sherkhon Salimzoda said last week that all houses in the Qushteppa settlement in Roudaki were built illegally because Tajik law prohibits building residential property on agricultural or irrigated land.

He said people living in Qushteppa were warned last year not to build further houses and to relinquish plots of land they had occupied illegally.  As a result, he added, they cannot claim compensation for the homes or the property.

Salimzoda said almost all the Qushteppa residents acquired plots of land illegally because none were Roudaki residents. But one of the protesters, a woman who identified herself as Lutfiya, told RFE/RL that her family members have lived in Roudaki all their lives and her father was a teacher there.

Another group of Qushteppa residents said their houses were built in 2006 and they have been officially exonerated but still don''t know whether they will succeed in keeping their homes.

Tutikhon Sadulloyeva told RFE/RL that the authorities have demolished the wall surrounding her house and she is afraid that the house will soon be completely destroyed.

She said that Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has said he can make available a further 30,000 hectares of land for agricultural purposes and asked why, in that case, he needs the 7.5 hectares on which their homes are built.

Sadulloyeva said Qushteppa residents have addressed more than 33 requests to various official bodies in the hope of resolving the problem. Some 83 houses have already been demolished, and authorities have vowed to tear down all those that remain.