What Is Behind Growing Violence in Kazakhstan?

Poverty and lack of life prospects in rural Kazakhstan led to population movements toward Almaty and Astana.

Rising social inequality and poverty, not radical Islamism is the reason for recent attacks on Kazakh security forces, Bulat Sultanov, director of the Research Institute of International and Regional Cooperation at the Kazakh-German University, told valdaiclub.com.

“We see a flare of some sort of psychosis, induced by a lack of confidence in the future and a resistance to the present conditions of life,” Sultanov said.

According to Sultanov, attacks on Kazakh law enforcement are a form of social protest from people with a low level of income and education, as well as with a criminal past. Sultanov believes that the poor organization of the attacks, together with a lack of video documentation of the attacks demonstrates connection to radical Islam.

“I do not see the classic signs, characteristic for terrorist attacks. No one stands behind them, no one takes responsibility, [unlike the recent attack in Germany]. In Kazakshtan, neither in Aktobe, nor in Almaty, we see any signs that ISIL could be responsible,” Sultanov said.

Sultanov also pointed to a lack of personal protection among security forces, which allowed the attackers to inflict sufficient casualties despite being poorly armed themselves.
“I was in that police station, it has an inane security system, the gates are kept locked with an enormous lock and chain, next to it is a narrow wicket gate and a passageway, inside which there is a guard booth. One can walk up to it, and be within arm’s reach, as this criminal did,” he added.

The fact that the Aktobe attack occurred during the month of Ramadan, means that the attackers were not very pious Muslims, Sultanov said.

“The people, who are being branded with the label of radical Islam commit the gravest sin in the Koran, taking the life of another person, on the eve of Ramadan. Because of that, I consider the events in Aktobe and Almaty as a protest against the Kazakhstan government’s failed social policy,” Sultanov said.

“This is a spontaneous, unprepared protest. If you prepared this attack, you would at least invite a group of cameramen, your own, as well as foreign ones, who would photograph and film you, and on this basis you would ask foreign sponsors for more attacks,” he added.

The main problem, according to Sultanov, is that poverty and lack of life prospects in rural Kazakhstan led to population movements toward Almaty and Astana.

“The main reason is the population’s polarization, the worsening quality of life and a lack of prospects for young people”, he said.

“By the way, Almaty and Astana, like many French cities, are surrounded by poles of instability. Agriculture is devastated, there are no state or collective farms, no work in the countryside, and people are moving to Astana and Almaty from all over Kazakhstan. They live in villages, in former dachas, that were only designed for summertime living. In principle, they have no prospects, because they need to have a trade to work in the city,” Sultanov added.

“The lack of social mobility during an economic crisis and the currency devaluation led to the impoverishment of popular majority and growing inequality. When one young ignoramus rides around on a Bentley, while another has no chances to find a job after finishing school or college, this is the main reason,” he said.

According to Sultanov, Kazakhstan needs to change its government system to resolve social tensions, replacing the presidential system with a presidential-parliamentary one. He also noted, that Kazakhstan needs to enact presidential term limits and a periodic change in leadership, similar to that of China.
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