Activists arrested – demands grow for president to resign
By Elizabeth Clarke
After confronting serious protests across the country, Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev quickly back-tracked on his plans to sell and lease land to Chinese interests. He announced a temporary moratorium and set up a commission involving some of the activists who had been involved in organising the protests. Before long, they abandoned the commission in disgust at its totally biased proceedings.
New demonstrations across the country planned for this coming Saturday (21 May), mainly organised through social media, were originally about the land issue. But now they are taking on a different dimension. “The demand is growing for the president himself to resign,” says one building worker in the country’s capital, Astana. “No-one trusts him! It’s not just a problem of land. It’s workers’ problems – their own housing needs, social spending, pensions etc. The clashes with the police on the land issue have just been a trigger for a movement on everything!”
Late on Tuesday, activists in cities – Astana, Almaty and the oil-producing region of Atyrau – were arrested and charged with “planning illegal public rallies”. They are being held for 15 days in an attempt to frighten people off from attending Saturday’s protests. Two other activists in Astana – Makhambet Abzhan and Maksat Nurypbayev – have been charged with “hooliganism” and jailed for ten days.
Activists around the country have been warned over the phone by local state functionaries or called into the local police stations to be told they will be arrested if they try to participate in the demonstrations. But this only makes them more determined to be there!
Condemn the arrests
Defence of these rallies against attack by the forces of the state is vital. So is the idea of getting representatives elected to link up on an area, on a regional and national basis. Appeals for support in neighbouring countries and internationally are also vital. Letters to national embassies or protests outside them should be organised in support of the demonstrators. Resolutions passed at union meetings, conferences and other gatherings of workers and young people will be warmly welcomed by those fighting dictatorship and for basic democratic rights in Kazakhstan.
Demands of the movement need to include:
As Andrei Prigor has said to Campaign Kazakhstan: “This is just the beginning! There will be no stopping this now. People are fed up!”
Addresses of Kazakhstan embassies/consulates can be found at the following: