May 21, Almata: Mass Arrests at a Rally against the Sale of Land

kazakhstan land reforms 1During a peaceful rally in Almata, on May 21, illegal arrests and attempts to arrest various social activists as they were exiting their homes were observed. Journalists were also being detained at their workplace. The events showed that all of our expectations were met, but this time the authorities had surpassed themselves.

Thanks to the incoming information from various activists, it became known that the environmental activist, Andrey Buzykin, from the movement Zaschhitim Kok-Jaylau (Let’s Defend Kok-Jaylau) also responsible for defending Almata, was taken to the city’s drug dispensary, even though he does not consume alcoholic drinks. A police cruiser was stationed since early morning under the windows of his comrade’s, Abay Erekenov’s, apartment, for which reason the latter was not able to leave his home. This has already become a favourite and proven tactic when it comes to arresting activists. Al’kena Kenjebayeva, a journalist from the newspaper Tribuna of KNPK (Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan), was held at the district’s Department of Interior for more than 4 hours instead of three as per regulations?kazakhstan land reforms 5

Our comrade, a socialist activist of Almata’s Association of Trade Unions ‘Odak’ and freelance journalist for the newspaper Tribuna, Aleksey Nigay, was even arrested at a bus stop upon leaving his home at around 10:40 am. Moreover, initially he was planning to first meet with a friend, and then with a journalist of one of the newspapers. Other journalists were also subjected to arrest. There has not been anything similar in the entire history of capitalist Kazakhstan!

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Moreover, during his arrest, the two police officers did not show any documents; only one of the two verbally introduced himself, the other one needed to be asked for his name and last name. Their names are Maksat Shakyrbayev, and the second one, who was tried to take away the cell phone by force, was Tulegen Shakirov, the license plate of the car (brand: Shans) is kz380KP02.kazakhstan land reforms 2

After having inspected the ID card, the cops invited Alexey into their car in order to determine some who-knows-which circumstances, something they had no right to do even under a strengthened regime. They did not succeed in explaining anything clearly, taking Alexey’s cell phone was an even greater infraction; finally, Tulegen Shakirov, was threatening all the while with a bogus charge of resisting the police. During the attempt to take away the cell phone by force, a button on the [victim’s] jacket broke off; having overdone, he will have to take responsibility for abuse of authority.

After being arrested, Alexey was not allowed to call his comrades. But as it appeared to be later, many activists’ phones had been disconnected from the mobile network, just like as we had warned.

Our comrade was held at the Jetysuyskiy District Department of the Interior for just over an hour, since the authorities could not find a reason for further detainment. During his talk with the assistant prosecutor of Jetysuyskiy District, Baurjan Lesbayev, who started explaining, why he was taken under arrest, something that the two patrolling police officers did not do. The reason given was that he was planning to take part in an illegal land-related rally.

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According to [the prosecutor’s] information sources, he posts in social networks, in which he is not registered or had been no later than a few years ago, therefore there had not been any substantial proof. All information is on the level of rumours and, more likely than not, obtained by interception of cell phone conversations, which is forbidden without permission from the prosecutor, therefore the source of these rumours remains a secret. This conversation lasted about 15 minutes, after which the prosecutor left the room. An explanatory note was written up, which had rather the looks of a complaint. Then a few detainees were brought in. From a conversation between our comrade and one of the others, it became known that the latter was taken into custody as he was just walking by the rally.

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After 1:00 pm Alexey was finally released, but having exited into the yard of the District Department of the Interior, he saw more than 60 persons, that were arrested at the Republic square. Only at that moment, he could finally make a call, asking one of the detainees to use their cell phone. All the people were in a good mood, a large part of them had their pictures taken in front of the building. They were filming with their cell phones. No one was scared, and here it must be noted, that this was already a victory, since such authoritarian regimes’ rule is based on fear, claiming that if not for them, there will otherwise be “war”, “instability”, etc.

Another one of our comrades, Timur Kibirov, says that as he stood at the bus stop, an old man approached him asking him where the rally will be held, having been told that it will take place at the new square, he suggested that people will be murdered there, just like it happened before. What the man meant were the events of December 16, 1986, and said, that he would like to see whether the rally will take place at the old square.  kazakhstan land reforms 3

At 11 am, people assembled at the building of the central library, hoping to move into the square, but could not. The neighbourhoods and the streets around the so-called “New square” (official name: Square of the Republic) were blockaded by police with a radius of around one kilometer. For more than 3 hours they closed down the streets from Abay until Gandi and from Furmanov until Dzerjinskiy (known today as Nauryzbay batyra).

Many public and touristic busses stood at and next to the square, as well as special police vehicles, into which the Fast Reaction Special Unit (SOBR) and the police carried those, who had come to demonstrate. Almost no one was allowed to go into the neigbourhoods surrounding the square, even those, who clearly had nothing to do with the demonstration, possibly the residents of these neigbourhoods. Public transportation was stopped on Furmanov, from Kurmangazy until Satpayev. Traffic jams arose at the square on Satpayev, pedestrians had problems crossing at intersections.

Kibirov also saw two special commandos chasing a guy that successfully ran away down onto the Mir street (Jeltoksan). Someone’s running shoe was lying on Abay Furmanov street, next to the sidewalk. On Facebook, there is also a video of someone being chased. Apart from that, Kibirov succeeded in walking to the square from Mira through an apartment complex’s yard (in the depths of the yard two police officers were relaxing on a bench), there was almost no one there, only on one bench a girl was playing the dombra, the underground shopping mall was closed.

When the three out of the 10-15 buses were filled, a part of those, who remained on the street decided to march to the old square. At the old square there was also police and a bus. The police guarded the territory of the park, so that people could not go through to the square.

Every District Department of the Interior was overcrowded with detainees from the rally. All of those that did not fit, were taken outside of the city and released. It can be certainly said that although it was less than 3000 in attendance at the rally, it was definitely more than 1000. This is a good result given the security measures taken by the authorities.

Furthermore, as our comrades are telling, since then, the country’s population started to discuss the topic of land, social stratification and social problems much more actively. The state wanted to do better, but the end result was like usual. The state used all of their media to portray the land rally in a negative light, but negative promotion is still promotion!

There were even such people that were openly mocking the official propaganda: “I only came to receive my 150 dollars (Pervyy Kanal Kazahstana (Kazakhstan’s 1st channel) stated that the rally-goers were being paid by the “treacherous West”)”, announced one of the detained women. “Where are they? I don’t see even one cash register!”

“You should ask Smykov (the host of  Pervyy Kanal Kazahstana)!” told her another detainee. The bus with 53 detained protesters burst into laughter.

The land reforms turned into a trigger of the accumulated discontent from the effects of devaluation, the growth of social stratification, unemployment, the ruining of small business and other social problems. Now we should pose this question: “what lesson will have learned the protesting activists and the authorities?”

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Translated from: http://socialismkz.info/?p=16076

Originally published on 22.05.2016 on the website of Kazakhstan’s socialists’, worker’s movement’s and social activists’ blog Socialismkz.info .

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2 Responses to May 21, Almata: Mass Arrests at a Rally against the Sale of Land

  1. Pingback: May 21, Almata: Mass Arrests at a Rally against the Sale of Land | Signalfire

  2. Pingback: Kazakistan: Toprak Sorunu Direnişi Tetikledi

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