Hundreds detained in Kazakhstan in opposition demonstration

Tue 24 May 2016

Hundreds detained in Kazakhstan in opposition demonstration

On May 21st hundreds of protesters, including journalists and civil society activists, were detained during protests against liberalisation of the farmland. After being held by the police for a few hours, most of the detained were released. Police also detained human rights activists and journalists who tried to monitor and report the protests.

According to observers more than 300 people were detained in Almaty, and more than 200 in Astana. Dozens of others were rounded up in Uralsk, Atyrau, and Pavlodar. Kazakh Information and Communications Minister Dauren Abaev, said he would “work to find out why [the journalists] were detained."

Change of Land Code

The protests broke out in late April over a controversial proposal for land reforms, including liberalising the sale and rental of farmland to foreigners. According to the opposition, this could lead to Chinese farmers buying big patches of land. However, the government immediately said that the Land Code would not be changed until 2017. Within two days after the postponement of the Land Code the Agriculture Minister Asylzhan Mamytbekov and Economy Minister Erbolat Dosaev both resigned.

Human Rights Watch

On May 12th  a panel of UN human rights experts called on the Kazakh government to "immediately end all forms of persecution and take effective measures to protect civil society." But in the following week, activists were detained and had their homes searched. Some were sentenced 10 to 15 days after being convicted of planning unsanctioned public rallies in the days before the peaceful demonstration on May 21st. Human Rights Watch also reported that several news sites were blocked on May 21st, including Radio Azattyk’s website.

Sources: Humanrightswatch, RFE/RL, Aljazeera