Jul 04 2011

Bombs, Flames & Guns

Category: In The Media,KazakhstanChrisM @ 3:19 pm

In the past month or so, there have been more media reports about terrorists/criminals/citizens (depending on the event and which media organization/government spokesperson you listen to) using extreme methods to protest against perceived injustices.

Although the official version of this subtitle would be one bomb and one explosion.
First we had a suicide bomber (Rakhymzhan Orynbasarovich Makhatov) who blew himself up at the KNB (modern day KGB equivalent) offices in Aktobe. He obviously perished in the explosion, and two to four people were also injured. The man’s family claim he was converted to an extreme form of Islam (Kazakhstan really is very moderate when it comes to Islam) by his wife. Originally the authorities claimed he was just a criminal who decided to avoid being caught by blowing himself up. I think their script writers need a lesson or five in believable plot lines. Despite releasing a statement condemning the act, the chief Imam of the area (always politically indirectly selected, akin to China’s approach) was fired by the Religious Board of the Muslims of Kazakhstan. For more information and background on this and the next explosion, see this post.

Then we had a car bomb (or random explosion) here in Astana, again near a KNB building, though this time it was a pre-trial detention centre. The two people in the car at the time were killed and the explosion caused their body parts to be strewn some 50-60m away (though one witness account placed body parts more than 200m from the car). A large part of the car was found up a tree 30m away from the blast site. One version of events has this explosion as being a simple accident, with the location being a coincidence, with no terrorist motives at all. Some details taken from Tengri News‘ piece on the incident.

A mother recently self-immolated (not sure if that is correct English) as a protest. This appened here in Astana, in the reception area of the Nur Otan offices. Nur Otan is the dominant political party in Kzaakhstan. KZBlog covers this story well here. Whether this form of protest came to the lady’s mind from the recent uprising in Tunisia, or perhaps going back to the Vietnam era protest by monks, she must have literally been at her wits’ end to come to this decision. Her son was convicted of a crime, and she felt that there was no possible way for him to receive proper justice. It is worth reading through the comments at the Zakon.kz article on this. If your Russian reading skills are as slow and rusty as mine, Google Translate the text or use Chrome, which should offer to translate it automatically.

Then last week a man in Aktobe set himself alight to protest the authorities’ investigation into the murder of his nephew. Where as the Astana woman was protesting her son’s innocence (which some people have called into question), the man in Aktobe was obviously very unhappy with the lack of progress in catching the killers of his nephew. You can read more here.

Over in the West of Kazakhstan, two policemen were killed in Shubarshi. In reply, the police began an operation against an armed gang, though it is not yet clear, or made public whether this group is an armed criminal gang, or a religious group that is armed. See Radio Free Europe‘s article. It was initially very hard to get any information on this incident, at least from Russian language/official sources.

I’m sad to see such violence occurring in this country – until fairly recently, it felt incredibly safe and secure here, especially when you look at the physical and political geography around us. Of course, given the huge size of Kazakhstan, and the infrequency of such events, visitors (and residents!) should probably not be overly concerned, however it makes sense to monitor independent news sources, and to make sure you are aware of, and respect, local customs, don’t start arguments (especially political or religious) with people you don’t know very well and finally, remember that despite the media coverage this violence has attracted, walking the streets of Astana itself is a lot safer (in many areas) than some parts of London!