That evening, a number of well-known german and international artists together with trade union and social activists staged a protest in front of the kazakh embassy in Berlin. The diplomatic circles of the german capital were meeting at the embassy’s „Summer party“, but the immediate reason for the protest was the imprisonnement of Bolat Atabayev, internationally renonwned theater director and longtime german-kazakh cultural liaison.
Bolat had been jailed on June 15 (see former report on campaignkazakhstan.org for details). The Berlin protest was based on a performance of two actors, one portraying freedom and the other one the kazakh state. You can see videos here and here.
In a spectacular performance, the actors played a street theater scene of freedom being hit, beaten until she is bloodstained, and dragged through the mud of the rainy evening. Freedom means „Freiheit“ in german, so on the picture below you can see that the actress is wearing a white t-shirt with that imprint and has got quite a large amount of (artificial) blood in the proces of torture. During the performance, a text by Volker Schmidt was read, expressing the hope of an end to the repression of freedom of opinion and democratic and human rights. After the performance, participants and spectators were asked to put their palm in the replica of a plaster hand print resembling that of Nursultan Nasarbayev in Astana, this time their wishes being strongly against the kazakh president’s regime.
Painter Raushan Tolganbayeva had created a portrait of Bolat Atabayev. Berlin trade union activists from GEW and ver.di unions were also present, and many artists joined the CampaignKazakhstan banner and signs reading „Free Bolat Atabayev“ in german and english, „Free Vadim Kuramshin“, „Freedom for the oilworkers“, „Full inquiry into the death of Takhir Mukhamedyzanov“ and „Full union rights in Kazakhstan“.
Among the artists was renowned Roberto Ciulli, director of Theater an der Ruhr, who has known Bolat Atabayev for many years and in a moving speech, told us that he could never imagine how his friend and democrat would „incite social disorder“, as had been the accusation of the kazakh state in the run-up to the trial on June 28.
When the bulk of the diplomats arrived, we repeated the performance, only to be told by the police that the embassy staff had intervened and imposed the 20 meter „neutral zone“guaranteed to diplomatic buildings by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – but in the narrow streets the kazakh embassy in Berlin is located in, this would have meant protesting in the surrounding building’s living rooms! So we continued handing out leaflets and shouting „Free Bolat Atabayev“ in german and russian. In the end, the embassy personnel raised the volume of their „garden party“ PA so much that even the party participants might have asked themselves what they were trying to hide.
Some photos of the protest: