Sergey Duvanov, journalist, human rights defender (Kazakhstan)
The events in Almaty of recent days have once again shown that a spontaneous protest can become an effective tool when it is organized and directed by people pursuing their political interests. A well-planned “spontaneous” protest, sensitively using the mood in society and having hidden support in the authorities, has a good chance of success, which was demonstrated in Almaty.
We saw how suddenly at the same time, in various cities of Kazakhstan, protesters of incomprehensible political orientation appeared, without leaders, without intelligible slogans, who, following the general scenario, began to set fire to cars, buildings, rob shops and storm the akimats.
This was most successful in Almaty, where they marched briskly through the streets of the metropolis and laid siege to the Akimat, the building of which, in the end, was burned down. There was a period when the authorities lost control over the situation in Almaty and there was a dual power in the city.
By the way, at the initial stage, many townspeople sympathized with the protesters in their desire to dismiss the government that had lost confidence and discredited itself. And many even joined the protest, deciding that this protest could push political reforms in Kazakhstan. It looks like this delusion and the conspirators counted on, realizing that popular slogans like "Shal ket" and "Down with the government" would gather many supporters. In the first days, it actually was.
However, on the second day it became clear that the protest was not spontaneous, and even less so peaceful. Feeling the strength, the "revolutionaries" behaved not like the owners of the city, thinking about its safety and security, but rather like conquerors sowing devastation, chaos and fear around them. At least, this is how it looked for the majority of Almaty residents.
They started by setting fire to police cars. Then they began to set fire to buildings that symbolized the previous power. Then it was the turn of the fire engines that extinguished these fires. The ambulance doctors, who provided assistance to the injured police officers, also got it. They also did not like traffic lights and cameras for fixing traffic violations - as a result of which the millionth city was left without traffic lights and a traffic collapse occurred. In short, the protesters created chaos and anarchy in the city, which led to an even greater bacchanal of violence.
When they needed cars to move around the city, the "revolutionaries" began to massively take them away from the car owners, and beat those who resisted. In addition to all this, the protest activists began to pogrom shops, and then the residents of Almaty and residents of neighboring villages joined in. A classic of the genre - the protesters, as winners, gave the city to plunder, which caused food problems for the townspeople.
This is where the revolution, in fact, ended: for the majority of the townspeople, "peaceful protesters" armed with firearms and engaged in arson, violence and robbery began to be perceived as bandits and terrorists. It seems that this "revolution" will remain in history.
Assessing what happened in Almaty, it is important to see two fundamentally different protests that leave this. On the one hand, it was an attempt at a coup d'etat, within the confrontation between political clans, which was personified by extremist-minded people. We still know little about them, it is possible that these are the very people who were trained in the KNB and who have already been spotted as "titushki" at rallies of the democratic opposition, helping the police.
On the other hand, this protest was joined by people who believed that it was a spontaneous action of indignation and discontent in the form of a protest against the government that had lost confidence and discredited itself. And therefore, some of the Protestants believed that they were participating in a just protest against the anti-popular government. We know many of them as oppositionists who are principled supporters of the struggle by exclusively political methods.
By the way, they were the ones who tried to channel the protest into a peaceful channel, trying to stop the use of violence and start negotiations with the authorities. But their voices were not heard by the protesters, where the tone was set by extremists aimed at creating fear and chaos in the city.
Now it is clear that this was done purposefully in order to force the authorities to surrender and resign Tokayev.
However, the violent actions of the extremist part of the protesters, who attacked police officers, set fire to buildings and vehicles, attacked firefighters, doctors who robbed shops, and violence against citizens, changed the attitude of Almaty residents towards them, turning them into banal thugs and looters.
And for many protesters, it became clear that, despite the opposition rhetoric and anti-Nazarbayev tendencies, they were not on their way with these people and they left the ranks of the protesters.
Given the predominantly marginal composition of the protesters, their forceful methods of action, the anonymous nature of their leaders and their visible connection with criminals, this protest cannot be perceived as a democratic alternative to the current government.
There is information that KNB chairman Karim Massimov was behind the preparation of this protest action, who, allegedly, in this way wanted to force Tokayev to resign from the presidency. This is indirectly confirmed by his arrest and the charges of high treason brought against him.
If this is true, then it is understandable why this "revolution" has developed so successfully. The KNB oversight explains it well.
It is bad that residents of Almaty and other cities of the country have become hostages of this inter-clan struggle. Now people will associate rallies with burning buildings, with shooting in the streets and destruction of shops. The negative attitude towards the rallies can become one of the strongest factors holding back civic activity in the country.
It is a pity for the thousands of young people who were used in the dark, thrown into the loopholes of the struggle for power. And these are hundreds, and maybe thousands of broken destinies.
It is alarming for those of the regime's opponents who did not understand the provocative nature of the protest and, participating in this protest, de facto became a cover for its true goals. I'm afraid the authorities will use this to punish them.
Summary: today, when I am asked what happened in Kazakhstan, I answer as follows. People in power sort things out among themselves, using the discontent and protest moods of Kazakhstanis. At the same time, both the people involved in this and ordinary people from Kazakhstan who are far from politics suffer.
However, no matter how it all ends, nothing in the country will change. Because on both sides, politicians who are politically and ideologically little different are participating in these showdowns. These people are from the same team, they had one teacher, they were all brought up in the traditions of moderate authoritarianism. This is not an attempt to change the situation in the country, it is an attempt to redistribute power.
In this regard, there should be no illusions - the winners will punish the vanquished, and everything will return to normal. And we will again be stuck in time with the power continuing to create the illusion of reforms and a successful transition to democracy.
It is alarming that the authorities, investigating the extremist actions of militants and marginalized people who participated in attacks on police officers, arson of administrative buildings and official vehicles, may attract as perpetrators those who did not participate in this, but, on the contrary, tried to translate the protest into a peaceful channel.
I know that some of the leaders of the democratic opposition who were in the thick of things tried to stop the violence from the protesters and for this were attacked by extremists who saw them as a threat to their plans. In particular, it is known that extremists attacked the leader of the Democratic Party Zhanbolat Mamai, threatened him with a pistol and punched his head in a scuffle. Tulegen Zhukeyev was also attacked, trying to dissuade protesters from seizing the akimat. And this is not an isolated case when oppositionists from the democratic camp came into conflict with extremists. However, there are fears that the investigation may not see the difference in responsibility between these fundamentally different groups of people.
It also sounded from the lips of President Tokayev that human rights defenders and journalists were responsible for the incident, who allowed themselves to speak out positively about the protesters. Knowing our security officials, there are fears that this may be regarded by them as a direct installation for exerting pressure and repression.
It is clear that this is a convenient excuse for the authorities to quietly crack down on the most implacable oppositionists from the democratic camp and put human rights defenders and independent journalists in line. The question is, how far can the authorities go in this direction?
Original is here.