In Kazakhstan, violence eases, but problems loom | Protest News

Last week, Nurlan left his apartment in Kazakhstan’s largest city and former capital, Almaty, which was in the spotlight. violent protest, only used it twice, you can buy food quickly and come back in a hurry.

The 41-year-old accountant, who works from home most of the time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, didn’t even consider going to the city center, where hundreds of armed men looted stores, seized and burned government buildings and clashed with police.

“I could have kicked the trash out – in the best case. Or they could have tortured me to death,” Nurlan told Al Jazeera, who withheld his name because he feared it would be a problem for the protests.” wrong” and persecuted.

He spent most of last week in an information vacuum after authorities shut down internet access and cellphone communications.

Meanwhile, his parents in another city kept calling his number, “going crazy” over the uncertainty in Almaty and the rest of this oil-rich Central Asia of 19 million people.

Although Nurlan grew up in Kazakhstan after independence from the Soviet Union, his native language is Russian, he watches Russian and Western movies, and he feels a cultural divide between himself and the protesters, who are mostly rural, unemployed, speaking Kazakh young man.

But he believes it was not the protesters who resorted to violence.

President accuses ‘foreign militants’

assembly It started on January 2 in an oil town in the southwest and spread to other urban centers in Kazakhstan.

The disorganized demonstrators have no apparent leader or agenda, other than to demand higher wages and the dissolution of the government of President Kassim-Jomart Tokayev.

However, Nuerlan said that on January 5, thousands of armed “mercenaries” arrived in Almaty, occupying police stations, administrative buildings and the airport, echoing the official view.

He said some were from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – also repeating Tokayev’s words about “foreign militants” and “terrorists”.

Nurlan, who is only nominally Muslim and indifferent to any religion, claimed that the “mercenaries” were “bearded radicals”, allegedly Keraat al-Nazarbayev, the nephew of Kazakhstan’s first president. Hired by Satibaldi.

Satybaldy, a powerful businessman and former security chief, is known as a proponent of strict Islam.

Nazarbayev stepped down in 2019 but retains enormous power as chairman of the powerful security council, while his family and protégés control Kazakhstan’s security apparatus and key businesses.

Two days after the protests began, Tokayev dismissed Nazarbayev from the Security Council, dismissing the government and disbanding several key security chiefs who had been formally appointed by the first president as “head of state” Erbas.

Tokayev has never accused the president’s nephew – whose brother still serves as the deputy director of the KNB or the National Security Council – of orchestrating the violence.

Tokayev was reluctant to name the person or power behind the “aggressors.”

“We are facing [an] Unprecedented aggression and attacks on our statehood and urgent measures to restore constitutional order and the rule of law,” Tokayev tweeted on Monday.

Instead, Tokayev asked Russian-led security group, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), for help. About 2,500 soldiers from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan arrived late last week and will leave within 10 days, Tokayev said on Monday.

Nurlan is enthusiastic about the arrival of the peacekeepers — even though Kazakhstan may become more politically dependent on its former imperial masters.

“The Russians are better than this crap. We better pay for the Russians than live under a beard,” Nurland said.

‘Questions will continue to be asked’

Gaps in Tokayev’s account of events, his allusions to the role of independent journalists and human rights activists, his government’s reluctance to release the names of dozens of protesters killed, and the pace of arrests — so far, have More than 9,000 people have been detained – worrying international observers.

“At this point, we will encourage Tokayev to use this moment to tell the truth about what has happened over the past week,” Ivar Dyer, senior policy adviser to the Norwegian Helsinki Commission, a rights watchdog, told Al Jazeera.

“Questions will continue to be asked about the official version of the events, which at this point do not seem entirely credible and would be lewd to speculate unnecessarily. An independent international investigation into these events may be warranted,” he said. added.

Many Kazakhs are wary of the names of the perpetrators — instead, they just praise the return to normalcy.

“The city is vibrant, public transport is running, everything is quiet and food is being delivered to shops,” Alexander, an ethnic Russian graphic designer born and raised in Almaty, told Al Jazeera.

But for many in western Kazakhstan, where the protests began, reason Very clear – economic stagnation due to corruption, soaring inflation and lack of opportunities for young Kazakhs.

“The government’s greed and arrogance have become endless. People really have nothing to eat, no jobs,” Atyrau, a Caspian port and a major hub for oil production and exports, told Al Jazeera.

Similar riots have already taken place in the town of Zanautzen, where protests broke out.

In 2011, government forces opened fire on disaffected oil workers who had been on strike for months, killing at least 14 and wounding hundreds more.

Also in Zanautzen, as many as 200 people were killed in the ethnic conflict that marked the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.