11/24/2021, 09.18
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Nur-Sultan, inter-ethnic conflicts multiply

by Vladimir Rozanskij

After citizens of Russian origin, Kazakh nationalists are targeting Turkish-speaking citizens. Clashes with Uyghurs and Dungans. The government minimizes and invites the population to national harmony. Poverty pushes minorities into city suburbs, where social tension is growing.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The controversy sparked by the anti-Russian positions of the Kazakh blogger Kuat Akhmetov had not yet died down, when other Kazakh nationalists also took action against people of different ethnicities, such as Uyghurs. Akhmetov organized "language patrols" in supermarkets forcing people to apologize for using the Russian language.

After the clashes in Pidžim at the end of October, in the Almaty region, with a maxi brawl between Kazakhs and local Uyghurs, nationalist appeals against Turkish speakers have been multiplying on various platforms in recent days. Uyghurs in Kazakhstan are about 275 thousand, 1.5% of the entire population, and hostility towards them is not new. Yet the authorities continue to deny the problem, repeating that "tolerance and inter-ethnic harmony are the greatest achievements of our nation".

Last year there were already tragic clashes in the province of Kordaj, in the region of Zambyl, between Kazakhs and Dungans. More than a thousand people stormed the houses of the Turkish-speaking minority: the toll was 11 dead, 18 seriously injured and various devastation in stores and homes; more than 20 thousand Dungans then fled to Kyrgyzstan. Other clashes took place between Kazakhs and Uzbeks, and also with Kurds, Lezginians, Avars, Darguins, Tajiks and Chechens.

The government's attempt to minimize these incidents, classified as "hooliganism" and "street violence" only exacerbates the problem. From many quarters there are calls to punish ethnic nationalism with severe laws, limiting the claims of Kazakhs to assimilate other peoples to their "constituent majority of the State", as is often declaimed.

Tensions are being fed by an increasingly difficult social and economic situation, especially after two years of pandemic restrictions. In the suburbs of Kazakh cities, many ethnic minority groups are amassing, accepting the most menial jobs, especially in agriculture.

President Kasym-Žomart Tokaev recently expressed his opposition to "ethnic neighborhoods" turning into isolationist ghettos. Speaking at the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan, where 125 different ethnic groups are represented on the territory, he said that ghettos "lead to the growth of interethnic tension and conflict."

Many wonder how the current divisions can be overcome, whether with a policy of urban reallocation, creating new territorial balances, or on the contrary, assigning larger areas to the various minorities, creating "linguistic cantons" on the model of Switzerland. In order to find solutions, according to several commentators, a more open and democratic confrontation would be necessary, and not only appeals from above to the "friendship between peoples" of Soviet memory.



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