Voices from Kazakhstan

Police and protesters in Almaty, at svoboda.kz

“I phoned Sanzhar [Bokaev, a shortly detained leader of the movement against the ban of the right-hand-drive cars], he is in Almaty district police, which is next to Nikolski bazaar. Help him if you are a lawyer! He can answer the phone though, he can speak, he is safe, they are not beating him… And hello to a pretty BBC correspondent that I invited for a cup of tea…” – LJ user da_simon, coming home after the protests.

Strongly against the ban

The public opposition to the Presiden't decision to ban the import and the use of the cars with the right-hand steering wheels continues, with increasing presence in Kazakhstani web space. Svoboda.kz (RUS), the site created shortly after the ban, now boasts more than 22.000 unique visits since 23 November and more than 6.500 people who signed the online petition against the ban. Belaya Yurta, a new blog, collects the reports of the protests in different cities in Kazakhstan (so far Almaty, Astana, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, Semey and Ust-Kamenogorsk), photos, videos, open letters and statements on the issue (RUS).

Not authorised in any city expect for Pavlodar, the protests were peaceful everywhere, hindered by heavy snowfall in Karaganda, and actively attended by both protesters and the police in Almaty, where the only arrests on the grounds of illegality of the protests happened. For getting a general picture, watch this video, a report of Channel 31 private TV (in Russian).

Another private TV station KTK was instructed not to report on the protests, according to a message from LJ user rtyom, in a newly created Livejournal community against the ban pravo_rulya_kz (RUS). “Who is next?” – asks rtyom, “How can we make it clear that we are not in the opposition?”

The Logo of the Movement: Soyuz Pravyl Sil Kazahstana (The Union of the Right in Kazakhstan)

The word “right” has many meanings, which made it a creative task to make up the slogans and the name for the movements. Take, for instance, “Without Right and Wrong!”, “For a Right Cause”, or, the latest creation “The Union of the Right Forces in Kazakshtan”. Nevermind a political party with the same name.

Meanwhile – Fashion Week

People in Kazakhstan have more cars, want more rights, and – want to wear the clothes that are local yet fashionable, wrote the New York Times about Kazakhstan Fashion Week, held on November 22-25 in Almaty. The week hosted several collections of Kazakh designers: “Ms. Azikhan, a fashion designer who opened her first boutique there last year, hopes her line will inspire the wives of local oil barons and metals magnates to give up imports like Chanel and Versace”, writes the NYT.

Some are not yet ready to buy local, not only because of the level of prices for oil barons, but also because of the quality of the clothes themselves. LJ user doctor_tseplik writes (RUS):

“Textiline” with its fashion street collection and Daralique were good… The rest… Oh my God. Do you remember the pillowcases of the Soviet times? They were turned into blouses… The sheets became skirts, which miraculously turned into trousers in the middle… To make it look better, the models had two tails of hair – to look like milkers from a collective farm… Designer! Haute Couture! Pret-a-Porte!”

Nathan of Registan has snapshots of strange sights of the shows, KZblog comments on the article: “Certainly everyone I know who goes on a business trip to Europe or the US brings back clothing for friends and family. And there are rumors of high-level officials planning trips based on the shopping seasons. But now we know that some segment of the Kazakh population can jet set to London, Paris, New York and be hip to the latest fashions.”

Nazarbayev speaks

Nazarbayev's latest statements continue to be discussed in the blogosphere. His now famous refusal to run after the West with “pants down”, went forgotten 10 days later, when he kindly commented on Borat during his visit to London. He surprised again when he said at a press conference that 15 years of Kazakhstan's independence can be compared to 150 years of calm history of humankind. Trying to make sense of it, Ben of neweurasia quotes Nazarbayev's “Kazakhstan 2030″ development strategy (“half past eight”, as put by locals), calling it a “Snow Leopard Development Theorem”:

Kazakhstani Snow Leopard would … possess western elegance multiplied by the advanced level of development, oriental wisdom and endurance. He will be all at one in his strivings, victories and failures with his brothers brought up by a single mother, i. e. by Uzbek, Kyrghyz and other Central Asian Snow Leopards. He will be ever proud of their progress and achievements.

Kazakhstani Media

Adam of neweurasia posted an interview with Merkhat Sharipzhan, a Director of “Azattyq”, Kazakh language service of RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). In his sincere talk, Merkhat provides an insight into the situation with media, language, government and opposition in Kazakhstan, and sheds light on tragic death of his brother, a journalist Askhat Sharipzhanov, who was hit by a car in July 2004.

Askar Shomshekov cites the editor of the “Sobytiya Nedeli” (Weekly News) paper from Pavlodar, the city 350km northeast of the capital Astana, on his Kazakhstan journalism blog (RUS). The newspaper is being shut down: “Remember, how “Irtysh-Times”, “Vesti Pavlodara”, TV channel “Irbis” seized to operate? Now we might add to this list. We were never involved with the politics, however, someone does not like us now…Unfortunately, it is not possible to make an honest newspaper here in Pavlodar…”.

LJ user raseyannaya, a young journalist from Ekibastuz, a town in Pavlodar region with 127.200 people, compares journalism in Pavlodar and Ekibastuz after receiving a training on legal aspects of journalism (RUS). “… The trainers told us about the trials of journalists, then asked us to share our stories. We kept silent – it is sad to admit that Ekibas has only partisan media, and there are no trials because we only write on demand and for money. There is a newspaper, which seriously cares about its image, but they have a strong “front”… The rest just earn their living”.

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