Kazakhstan: Activists march for democratic changes as police stay on sidelines

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ALMATY, Kazakhstan (TCA) — Dozens of activists of Kazakhstan’s Oyan, Qazaqstan (Wake Up, Kazakhstan) movement marched in the Central Asian country’s largest city, Almaty, on August 30 demanding democratic reforms, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

The activists’ march across major streets in downtown Almaty on the country’s Constitution Day lasted for almost an hour and ended with a short rally near the building of Opera and Drama Theater.

Police were present at the rallies but refrained from interfering.

The activists held banners saying “Re-Constitution!” and “Parliamentary Republic,” and chanted “Wake Up, Kazakhstan!” and “Down with the Authoritarian System!”

They also read aloud parts of Kazakhstan’s constitution about citizens’ rights to assembly, freedom of speech, and expression.

In the southern city of Shymkent, about a dozen activists also rallied, challenging the current constitution, which they say has been illegally amended several times since 1993.

They were also holding placards demanding the immediate release of Mukhtar Dzhakishev, the former head of Kazakhstan’s nuclear agency, Kazatomprom, who is serving a 14-year prison term for embezzlement, which he denies. Human rights groups in Kazakhstan have called Dzhakishev a political prisoner.

The rallies were the latest in a series that has increased in frequency since Kazakhstan’s longtime ruler, Nursultan Nazarbayev, abruptly resigned in March and named Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, the chairman of the parliament’s upper chamber, the Senate, his successor.

Tokayev formally won election as president on June 9 in a vote that international observers said was marred by the “detention of peaceful protesters, and widespread voting irregularities on election day [that] showed scant respect for democratic standards.”

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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