Kazakhstan marks Independence Day with protests
On December 16, the Independence Day is celebrated in Kazakhstan. The first and second presidents, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, congratulated the people of Kazakhstan on the holiday. Meanwhile, unauthorized rallies in memory of the December and Zhanaozen victims were held in Nur-Sultan and Almaty. Protesters called on the authorities to carry out reforms in the country.
Active members of society gathered for unauthorized rallies, despite being warned by the security forces not to and the likelihood of being arrested. In Nur Sultan, protesters gathered near the memorial to the victims of the famine of 1932-1933. The protesters paid a minute's tribute of silence to the memory of the 1986 December and 2011 Zhanaozen victims. In December 1986, the unrest started after the appointment of Gennady Kolbin, the person who never lived or worked in the Kazakh SSR, as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The protesters, mainly young people, demanded the leader was chosen among the representatives of the indigenous population. The procession was led by Nursultan Nazarbayev, who subsequently took the chair of the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. One of the Jeltoqsan movement activists Qairat Rysqulbekov died back then, more than 1,700 people were injured in clashes with the police and military personnel. Hundreds of people lost their jobs, were expelled from universities. Nearly one and a half thousand Kazakhstanis were fined and arrested. The Zhanaozen events on the same day in 2011 turned out to be more tragic. The protest rally of oil workers ended in execution. According to official figures, 14 workers died, dozens were injured.
... The rally in the capital was surrounded by police and a tight ring of local and foreign journalists. Security officials warned that the rally was in violation of the law and urged those gathered to disperse. In Almaty, a rally of the Oyan, Qazaqstan civil rights organization was held at Republic Square. The protesters held the banners stating 'Make way for the young'. "Today, on the historic Independence Day, as well as on the day of mourning and grief, we, the Oyan, Qazaqstan political reform movement, gathered at the square to declare that we are ready to fight for our rights and freedom! We have not forgotten the victims of the execution of workers in Zhanaozen, we didn’t forget the political killings of Zamanbek Nurkadilov and Altynbek Sarsenbayev. We know what you did. We are ready to fight so that no one in our country will ever be prosecuted or killed for political views," the protesters said.
However, after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev came to power, the domestic political situation in Kazakhstan eased somewhat - the number of abuses committed against participants in unauthorized rallies has decreased. At the same time, all the rallies that were held since the spring of this year after the new president president was appointed were peaceful - and now the opposition part of the society looks forward to a constructive dialogue with the government, hoping that their opinion on a particular issue would be heard and taken into account. Now President Tokayev is called upon to be consistent and follow up on his words.
And Tokaev promised to revise the restrictive law on rallies and demonstrations before the end of the year, and until then he called on local authorities not to ban protests. In a September letter to the people of Kazakhstan, he spoke of the need to strengthen the protection of human rights and conduct "deep reforms of the law enforcement and judicial systems."
Kazakh political scientist Marat Shibutov told Vestnik Kavkaza that "the second meeting of National Council of Public Confidence is scheduled for December 20, at which President Tokayev will announce the main political initiatives that will be taken in the near future." The expert does not exclude that the meeting will consider a project on holding peaceful rallies and meetings submitted by the Public Council of Almaty together with director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law Evgeniy Zhovtis. "This document has already been discussed at the Ministry of Information and Communications and has been submitted to the presidential administration. The basic principle is that a rally can be held everywhere except for protected objects: government buildings, military institutions, etc. In all other cases, citizens independently choose the time and place еруьыудмуы," Shibutov emphasized. According to him, it would be enough to send a notification to organise a rally.