12/07/2021, 09.36
KAZAKHSTAN
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Nur-Sultan, activists take to the streets for disability rights

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The European Union invokes sanctions. Subsidies too low for the disabled, about 25 euros per month. Expert: it is not enough to provide public aid, civil inclusion is needed, with job opportunities for the disabled.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - They want the European Union to adopt sanctions against public officials in Kazakhstan, guilty in their opinion of trampling on the rights of the disabled. This is the request made by a group of activists who took to the streets in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, as reported by Radio Azattyk, the demonstration took place in front of the EU Representative Office.

At the procession on December 3, the International Day for the Disabled, many people with reduced abilities joined not only from Nur-Sultan, but also from Kokšetau, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Strachinsk, confirming that Kazakhstan does not respect their rights, despite having ratified the UN Convention on the subject.

The demonstrators' declaration states that "our fundamental rights are being violated... that is why we demand sanctions against the Minister of Social Defense Šapenkov, the Minister of Interior Turgumbaev, the head of services (Knb) Masimov and the akym (mayor) of the capital Kulginov". The accusation against these senior officials is to give provisions in order to persecute the disabled, not allowing them to defend their rights, through forms of repression to "instill fear".

According to the protesters, even before the event there were attempts at psychological pressure. One of the invalids present, Ermek Bekishyev, said that "being compltley disabled, I can only move by car; when I arrived here in front of the court, some people blocked my access, acting in a threatening manner with phrases like 'stay at home, where do you want to go?'".

Those present tried to hand the EU diplomats an appeal with the signatures of dozens of people, but the guards blocked access to the building. Only later was one of the representatives allowed to deposit the petition at the concierge desk. Another request had been signed in the previous days by thousands of people, asking the government to double the subsidy for people with reduced abilities with the slogan "we do not live, but we exist!".

The text of the petition explains that "19 million people reside in Kazakhstan, of whom only 700 thousand have obtained recognition of their disability. They do not live, but exist in conditions of misery. Subsidies are totally consumed by care and the cost of housing". According to the document, Kazakhstani invalids consider such reduced aid unjust: many of them worked and brought the contribution to the good of society. "By becoming unable to work," the petition states, "we were thrown overboard with great contempt by the government.

The appeal was circulated on the initiative of 47-year-old Ranita Žumaševa, a third-level invalid living in the village of Šusk, Žambil region. The woman published the text last November 17 on the site Egov.press. Ranita had already addressed several times to the President of Kazakhstan, with a request for more attention from the authorities to the conditions of disabled people and announcing protest actions and hunger strikes. Now she chose to address all citizens of Kazakhstan directly, also posting a message via social media: "I don't know if I will be able to meet you next winter, so I want to tell you that no one will solve our problems as long as we remain silent. Don't sit with your arms folded, write and record video appeals for the president."

Žumaševa lost her hearing as a result of an illness that led to several other discomforts. From 60 kg her weight has dropped to less than half, she has a dependent child and does not own her own home, while the state subsidy is 36 thousand tenge per month (about 25 euro). So far, no state body has responded to her appeals; the only support "from above" has come from the Almaty municipal deputy, Ljazzat Kaltaeva, president of the association of disabled women "Šyrak", who warned that "in no country is it possible to really achieve equal opportunities only by increasing subsidies". In her opinion, it is necessary to increase the potential of people with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to work and get a decent salary, on truly equal terms.

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