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Protesters outside City Hall in Almaty

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The police arrest a woman with a five-month-old child

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The toppling of the monument to President Nazarbayev in Taldykorgan

‘It’s a Revolution’ – An Interview with Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov on the Unprecedented Events Unfolding in Kazakhstan

 

First Published 05/01/2022

Following four days of protests in Kazakhstan, the like of which have not been seen since 1986, on Wednesday the 5th of January, the government resigned and a two-week state of emergency was declared after the mayor’s office and city hall were set ablaze in Almaty. Although the protests have been sparked by a rise in fuel prices, the anger behind them speaks to a long-standing deeper malaise and discontent with the authorities.

   In the wake of these events, I spoke with Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, a Kazakh politician who now lives in exile; he is the former head of the Atameken National Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers of Kazakhstan, and founder of the opposition party, Atameken.

   ‘It's a revolution,’ he told me. ‘The increase in the price of gas ignited it, as the impoverished population of this oil-rich country refused to pay double.  President Tokayev may have dismissed his cabinet, but this cosmetic measure isn’t sufficient to sate the angry crowds tired of the endemic corruption of the ruling elite. The initial demand that the price of gas be decreased during the cold winter season further triggered further political demands and a desire to change the entire inhumane, anti-democratic system designed by the corrupt President Nazarbayev and his insatiable family.

   ‘The dictators of Kazakhstan and Russia have a treaty in place designed for such revolutionary scenarios. This treaty allows Russia to intervene to lend support to the authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan. President Tokayev, who is a puppet of the old President Nazarbayev and of Putin, has confirmed his pro-Russian stance since his first day in power. He will definitely ask Putin for help unless the Western democracies put pressure on him to stop shooting people and transfer power peacefully. What we need now is massive support from the international community to prevent Russian military intervention. There are already videos of the first Russian military planes arriving in Aktau.

   ‘I have received word from activists in Kazakhstan that the authorities have cut off the internet nationwide. This was people’s last available method of communication. Yesterday, over twenty private jets left Kazakhstan with the families of oligarchs and the president’s family members. Among them was Kenes Rakishev, the son-in-law of the former Prime Minister, Imangali Tasmagambetov, and a close crony of Timur Kulibayev, Nazarbayev's son-in-law, who controls the economy. He is also good friends with the Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, who calls him the “Chechen prince.” We need to put pressure on the government of Switzerland and other Western democracies to freeze the assets of the Kazakh oligarch’s and the President’s family, and to cancel their visas so they can’t run away and steal billions from the Kazakh people. We need Western democracies to support the Kazakh revolution.

   ‘The regime has tried to provoke peaceful demonstrators and portray them as a violent mob in order to justify emergency military rule in the major cities. However, this is not true, and the police and military have already supported the people and refused to open fire on the crowds in four cities. People just want to kick the old dictator out, because enough is enough. The monument to Nazarbayev is already being torn down in the city of Taldykorgan. We need to fully expose the crimes of the Nazarbayev regime now.’