17 мая 2023
Yuna Korosteleva, photo Paolo Sorbello.

Tardy Punishment

Political activists face harassment weeks, months after their protests

Tardy Punishment

Vlada Yermolcheva and Darkhan Sharipov, two activists of the Oyan, Qazaqstan! movement, were arrested in Almaty on May 6 and sent to a detention center for 15 days. Sharipov’s sentence is linked to a picket held against the results of the November presidential elections. Yermolcheva was found guilty of carrying out a demonstration in the aftermath of the March parliamentary election.

“Darkhan and Vlada did not lie: In the entire history of Kazakhstan, not a single election was held transparently and in compliance with the law. Our votes were first stolen by Nazarbayev and the Nur-Otan party, and now by Tokayev and Amanat,” said journalist Assem Zhapisheva, who is a member of Oyan, during a press conference for the release of the activists.

It took the prosecutor’s office six months to draw up administrative charges against Sharipov and more than a month to accuse Yermolcheva of her violation.

Yet, the authorities failed to find evidence of mass violations during the elections of 2022 and 2023, which were at the center of the activists’ actions. Ballot stuffing, repeat voting, restrictions against independent observers, and violations during counting do not seem to be considered illegal by the law enforcement system of Kazakhstan.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev secured his presidential post with 81.3% of the votes in November. Months later, the parliament was filled up with deputies, none of whom are independent. And the security apparatus deems it illegal to demonstrate dissatisfaction with the political process in the streets. And the punishment does not expire, even after six months.

On April 12, politician Mukhtar Taizhan, activist Alnur Ilyashev and journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov were detained for 15 days for holding a rally against unfair parliamentary elections three days before. Other participants, among whom politician Rysbek Sarsenbayuly and civil activist Marat Turymbetov, were summoned by the police.

On April 9, at the inaugural demonstration of the “People’s Parliament”, independent candidates argued that unfair elections had resulted in an illegitimate parliament. On May 10 and 11, one month later, activists Aruzhan Duisebayeva, Inga Imanbai and Arailym Nazarova were fined for taking part in the rally.

The authorities have failed to provide an explanation for such a delayed prosecution. The detentions came against the backdrop of protests held by oil workers from Zhanaozen and popular outrage against Tokayev’s visit to Moscow for the May 9 Victory Day Parade.

The authorities continue to put pressure on political activism. But despite their new tactics, activists have shown that they will continue to hold public protests.