On top of existing tensions and police brutality, my country may not survive
Since the beginning of March, Kazakhstan is facing possibly the greatest challenge in its short history since independence. It is still unclear how the events will unfold, but what is obvious is that Kazakhstan’s economy will be under pressure. Russia is a key neighbour to Kazakhstan — the two countries share 2,700 kilometres in borders. In terms of its close bilateral integration with the economy of Russia (up to 40% of imports), as well as in terms of the obligations of the Eurasian Economic Union, Kazakhstan is already experiencing the impact of sanctions.
As a landlocked country with no ability to enter European markets directly, Kazakhstan will experience an exponential decrease in imports and exports, and with time a deficit of goods and services, an increase in prices, and a devaluation of the national currency.
Our President has steered Kazakhstan firmly into Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence, so that the government’s fate has become intimately bound up with his. All this is posing a serious risk of further destabilisation for Kazakh society.
The protests two months ago started in the south-east in response to a large rise in gas prices, but quickly spread to other regions. They were fuelled by mass dissatisfaction with the government and economic inequality. The Government responded by issuing shoot-to-kill orders without warning.
During the unrest, over 8,000 protestors were arrested. Over the past two months, many have been detained, often for long periods of time without justification. As I see from reports by Human Rights Watch, many people suffered from torture, and just a few days ago even the authorities admitted that six people detained died from torture. These are just ordinary Kazakhstanis.
People are scared. Our biggest wish is for a semblance of normality to return. Our country is at a risk of division, not just because of war and sanctions, but also because continuous police brutality causes great pain.
An amnesty for all would be the first step towards reconciliation. We also want to see a transparent and open investigation into everything that occurred during the protests, as well as after. The future of Kazakhstan hangs in the balance. Our cries for justice must be heard.
To ensure their safety and well-being, and that of their family members, the author has remained anonymous.