“They stole everything”: The cost of Kazakh protests

By Abdujalil Abdurasulov
BBC News

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Although the authorities claim that terrorists are to blame for violence in the country, there’s widespread discontent with the government.

As Andrey Mikhaylovich, Kazakhstan’s largest city, walked into a looted mall in the outskirts Almaty the sound of broken glass echoing around him. All over the place were empty boxes, phones cases, shoes, and other remnants.

Mikhaylovich, his son and a clothing shop are the owners of this mall. He is visiting the store for the first time since the beginning of the unrest in Almaty, 4 January. After seeing all the destruction, he couldn’t stop screaming.

He said, “They stole everything.” He said, “They looted everything in three days and then robbed all the place.” These losses were huge. “Many people now have nothing left to live on.”

As we were about to enter an escalator, several shots stopped us. They were trying to pursue some curious tourists out of the mall. They now protect the area from looting.

However, there are not many things left to preserve.

Yedil, who was a local resident and recalled the initial nights of clashes, said that “The marauders broke in to the building, smashed the windows, and then went to crack cash machines open.”

His friend needed him to protect his goods and shop.

“Ofcourse, they shot at us,” Yedil said. Yedil stated that they shot at us. “The mall’s guards attempted to defend it using a hose. But it proved futile.”

The building was set ablaze by several looters. “It was all gone. We attempted to extinguish it. Yedil recalls that we tried calling firefighters, but the phone lines were down.

Three bodies were found in cars as I was walking towards Almaty’s main square.

They were likely killed or shot in an accident. A vehicle struck a tree, and the other was in a ditch. They looked as though they lost control of their vehicles while trying to flee from some sort of danger.

In the midst of intense fighting, I found myself in Almaty’s main square and was drawn to the noises of gunfire, shots, and explosions.

The sky lit up from stungrenades, and I was amazed at the speed with which the violence spread.

  • BACKGROUND: Kazakhstan Country Profile
  • CONTEXT:What is the reason for unrest in Kazakhstan

Were they really protestors? They were protestors, or?

According to the government, they are terrorists or bandits. They were also armed.

Some tried to invade military bases and police stations in order to grab their weapons. Some cases were successful. They broke into firearms shops, looting them.

West Kazakhstan is where the protest began. Demonstrators insist their peaceful demonstration does not encourage aggression. They accuse the authorities of inciting violence.

Dosym Satpayev is a political analyst hailing from Almaty. He believes that the heart of the mob who attacked security personnel and took over buildings were unemployed youth from poverty, who then hijacked protests.

He said, “You will see a lot unemployed young people in big cities in Kazakhstan. This could be an aggressive mass.”

“And then these people tried using the events at Almaty to their own ends.”

The main reason for the provocation in Kazakhstan was undoubtedly economic grievances.

Over the last few years, the public has grown increasingly angry at the authoritarian system that has not improved the quality of living.

There was great excitement when Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s first president, announced his resignation in 2019.

Kassym Jomart Tokayev was also seen to be loyal to Mr Nazarbayev. These protests were triggered by the massive fuel price increase in January, which only led to more public discontent.

Some observers believe that protesters’ grievances don’t explain the violence.

These people believe that the reason for these conflicts is due to power struggles between former and current presidents. Although Mr Nazarbayev retains a strong political influence, Mr Tokayev doesn’t have all the power.

Others believe Karim Masimov was arrested recently, who is also a former chief of secret services and an ally of Mr Nazarbayev.

Satpayev says that the instability of Kazakhstan is being threatened by the fierce competition for elite power. But the power struggle may not be between these two leaders. It could also involve those in their inner circle, he says.

Source: BBC.com

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