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The protesters halted traffic on May 17 along the Bokhtar-Dushanbe road.

DUSHANBE -- Dozens of Tajiks affected by some of the worst flooding and mudslides in years have blocked a key road in a rare instance of public protest in the authoritarian Central Asian nation.

The protesters halted traffic on May 17 along the Bokhtar-Dushanbe road, which connects the nation’s capital with the center of Khatlon Province. The road continues on to a border bridge with Afghanistan.

Residents of the Khuroson district have been severely impacted by devastating floods and mudslides in recent days with dozens of homes in three villages partially or fully destroyed.

One person has died and several have been injured from the natural disaster.

Meanwhile, residents have been forced to spend nights outside without emergency aid, they said.

The head of the local police is negotiating with the protesters.

Large demonstrations have been rare in Tajikistan -- which has been run for more than a quarter century by authoritarian leader President Emomali Rahmon -- since the end of its civil war in 1997.

The protest comes amid complaints over the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tajik authorities, who for weeks denied that the coronavirus had reached the nation, claim that only 204 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and only 36 have died as of May 16 .

However, civil activists claim that the number of deaths alone already exceeds 200

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov reportedly ordered the pardons ahead of a Muslim holy night.

Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has pardoned 1,402 prisoners.

State media reported following a government cabinet meeting on May 15 that 1,192 citizens and 210 foreign nationals who "sincerely regretted their criminal deeds" would be released from prisons.

The prisoners will reportedly be released ahead of the Night of Power, the holiest Muslim night celebrated this year on May 19.

There was no mention of what basis the list of the pardoned was prepared. The names of the offenders, which articles of the Criminal Code they were sentenced under, and how much of their sentence was served were also not published.

As in previous years, Berdymukhammedov ordered local officials to ensure the pardoned receive employment, although the country is believed to have a rising unemployment rate and slowing economic growth.

Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most isolated and repressive countries.

Its prisons are believed to be filled with hundreds of political prisoners, dozens of whom have been held incommunicado for years under harsh conditions, according to human rights groups.

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