Kazakhstan: Mothers’ social rights protest attacked by police

A peaceful protest by several hundred women in Kentau City, southern Kazakhstan, fighting on social issues and against police repression, was brutally attacked and broken up by police, and many of the protesters were arrested. Activists in the Workers’ Movement of Kazakhstan have called for international solidarity protests.

On 14 May, several hundred women, activists in the Movement of Mothers, participated in a protest outside the building of the Kentau City Akhimat. They had hoped to be able to put their case to the region’s Akim (Mayor), Mr B Zhalkishiev. The women wanted to discuss their social problems with him, and in particular to raise the illegal actions of the authorities and police against women.

This however was not to be. The Akim refused point blank to speak to the protesters. In response, the women decided to form a human chain, blocking all the exits from the building and the roads leading to it. As the Akim’s lunch break neared, the Akim’s bodyguards drove their cars through the crowd to force a way out. Eye-witnesses report several women were injured.

Afraid that things would develop out of control the police changed tactics. They persuaded the women that if they broke into groups of ten, they would all be given permission to meet with the Akim in the afternoon. The police then made a registration list of those women allowed to see the Akim. As protesters went for a break, the police and KNB (secret police) used this list to arrest the leading activists. Some were arrested at home, some were taken on the streets, and some were taken out of the queues in shops! In what was described as "a battle against extremism" one police major, Isatai Asarbekov, was seen driving some of the leaders of the protest off in his car to an unknown destination.

Over 50 people were arrested, according to the local leader of the Workers’ Movement, Genaddi Nikitin. He is now worried that the authorities will be violent towards those arrested. One of the women’s leaders, Gulya Dildabaeva, had only just been released from hospital, where she had been recovering from a previous beating the police had given her.

"Terrorist" slanders

Late on the night of 14 May, a special court was established in a police station in Kentau City, to try those arrested. Out of the 58 arrested, 18 were charged. More charges are expected. So far, those charged have been fined. The only witnesses in this kangaroo court were policemen and KNB officers. The lawyer appointed to ‘defend’ the women made his support for the police clear. During the sham trial the police lied and shouted, trying to scare the women with comments such as, "because of people like you the Soviet Union broke up", "You are not electors but sheep", and "Don’t touch our President, you should be shot" and so on. The police once again tried to blame Genaddy Nikitin for all the trouble. Both the prosecutor and the KNB openly accused him of having links to Russian and international "terrorist" organisations (when asked to specify, they named the CWI and trade unions!)

None of this has been reported in the local or national media. However that day the local TV did carry a story reporting that 19 million tenge had been stolen from the local budget – money that was intended for child benefit payments. It was reported that criminal investigations were to be launched against three former Mayors. The situation remains tense and could well erupt again. Genaddy Nikitin and Gulya Dildabaeva are waiting further criminal charges.

The Executive Committee of the Workers’ Movement of Kazakhstan asks international trade unions, and left and human rights organisations to send protests to the authorities in South Kazakhstan.

Stop the beating of women and children who are protesting in defence of their social rights, for their right to live! Drop the charges against all those arrested! Pay the money owed to Kentau’s women immediately!

Please fax protests demanding the release of those arrested to:

1: Head of the City Police Colonel Dalbekov Kairat. Fax: 0073 2536 32503 or 32466

2: Akimat of Kentau. Fax number: 0073 25 36 355 65

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May 2003