Almaty, Kazakhs protest against Nazerbaev's Chinese colonization
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Preventive arrests, a block on communications fail to stop the rally. Several participants arrested in other cities. Nazerbaev charged with giving "the Chinese whatever they ask for". Request for the release of Aron Atabek, poet and dissident sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A protest against the strengthening of the Chinese presence in the country and against the "eternal president" Nursultan Nazarbaev, whom opponents say has “sold” the nation to China: this led to the demonstration on March 27 in Almaty, the main city in south Kazakhstan.

The rally had been agreed with the authorities and gathered about 300 demonstrators, but was conditioned by some preventive arrests and the blocking of all access to the internet and cell phones on the square.

In the days ahead of the protest, the police had taken steps to stop several potential demonstrators. The rally took place inside a protective net of police cars, on the central square, near the monument to Shokan Walikhanov, founder of modern Kazakh historiography.

The main organizer, Zhanbolat Mamaj (photo 3), managed to take to the streets, with that part of his supporters who overcame the filter of the police. In the past, the authorities had stopped many of his initiatives.

The protest criticized the continued opening in Kazakhstan of new Chinese companies and economic initiatives. Large areas of the national territory are cheaply leased and exploited by them. Nazarbaev, still president, paved the way for the phenomenon, asking Beijing to open the first major lines of credit to the Nur-Sultan government.

Abzal Dostijarov, one of the founders of a new Kazakh Democratic Party, also took part in the meeting. “The wealth of the Kazakhs - he said - is bestowed left and right with the blessing of those in power, Nazarbaev and his protégé, the current President Tokaev. If we do not raise our voices, we will soon be swallowed up by China and we will lose everything that our fathers left us”.

Journalist Rysbek Sarsenbajuly accused "all our bureaucrats, starting with Nazarbaev, who are corrupt to the core and give the Chinese whatever they ask for."

At the demonstration, many recalled the oppression of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, where all Turanic-speaking groups, most of whom profess the Islamic faith, are targeted. The Kazakhs, along with a million Uighurs and people of other ethnicities are sent to "re-education camps"; hundreds of thousands are sent to prison for no reason.

There is also talk of the widespread practice of forced labour and the strict measures to reduce the birth rate, up to the sterilization imposed on Muslim women, so much so as to speak of the "genocide" of Xinjiang by the communist regime (photo 2).

Many speeches at the Almaty rally called for the release from prison of Aron Atabek (photo 4), a poet and dissident sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment after the "Shanyrak revolt", the district of Almaty where in 2006 the inhabitants, inspired by the poet, they tried to defend their illegally built houses from destruction.

Mamaj described Atabek as a "defender of the Kazakh land". The crowd chanted his name along with those of other activists and human rights defenders currently in prison, such as Askhat Zheksebaev and Kajrat Klyshev, and called for "personal sanctions against Nazarbaev". Several opponents are in jail for trying to found the Democratic Party, in place of the Keshe Partjasy organization outlawed by the authorities.

The instigator of the Democratic Party initiative, former banker and former energy minister Mukhtar Ablyazov, fled to Europe after his 2017 arrest, and is currently living in France, from where he promoted the rally on March 27 through social networks.

Protest initiatives planned in other cities of the country were all blocked by the authorities, with a large deployment of the police force. In the capital Nur-Sultan, several arrests were made in the open space in front of a large circus; other arrests also took place in Shymkent, Aktoba, Uralsk and in smaller towns.