Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A protester is detained in Kazakhstan

Police officers detain a demonstrator during a rally outside the Kyrgyz parliament building in Bishkek, Kazakhstan on January 7, 2022. (Photo: Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP via Getty Images)

Kazakhstan President Condemned for 'Shoot to Kill' Orders Against Protesters

"The only thing flourishing in Kazakhstan is corruption," said one protester.

Julia Conley

Human rights advocates expressed alarm Friday after Kazakhstan's president ordered security forces to "shoot to kill without warning" protesters engaged in ongoing demonstrations over high fuel prices, economic inequality, and corruption.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced he had given the order in a speech as he also accused media outlets of encouraging unrest and claimed without evidence that demonstrators have taken orders from a "single command post" and have "a clear plan of attacks on military, administrative, and social facilities in all areas."

"They need to be destroyed and this will be done," said Tokayev of the demonstrators, adding that suggestions of negotiating peacefully with the public were "just nonsense."

Noting that authorities "have a duty to maintain order," Amnesty International said on social media that "giving blanket approval for police officers and troops to fire without warning is unlawful and a recipe for disaster."

The popular uprising began Sunday in the western city of Zhanaozen after the government lifted a cap on the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is used widely by Kazakh drivers. After the cap was lifted, gas station prices quickly doubled from the equivalent of $0.14 to $0.28 per liter.

The price hike exacerbated simmering anger over economic inequality in the oil-rich Central Asian country, where the average worker earns less than $600 per month and wealth is concentrated among the very rich.

"The only thing flourishing in Kazakhstan is corruption," a protester identified as Saule told Euronews Friday.

As the demonstrations grew, protesters expressed anger over a system in which the president appoints regional leaders rather than holding elections. On Friday, attendees at a rally in Zhanaozen called for a return to the constitution that was in place after Kazakhstan became an independent country in 1991, which had "a more democratic tone and a clearer division of power than the current one," according to the Washington Post.

"The protests unfolding in Kazakhstan, which have turned violent, are a direct consequence of the authorities' widespread repression of basic human rights."

The government has agreed to some concessions since the unrest began, announcing a new cap on LPG prices and utility bills on Thursday, dismissing Tokayev's cabinet, and suggesting that Parliament could be dissolved and new elections could be held.

But Tokayev has blamed tens of thousands of demonstrators for the escalation of unrest, including a fire that was set at City Hall in Almaty, the nation's largest city, on Wednesday. He also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops into the country, a move Tokayev said Friday had helped his government regain power.

Security forces have reportedly killed at least 26 people since the protests began, with the Interior Ministry saying the "armed criminals" had been "liquidated." Authorities also said Friday that nearly 4,000 "riot participants" had been detained and blamed demonstrators for the deaths of 13 police officers.

Authorities said they were carrying out an "anti-terrorist operation" in Almaty, leading protesters to gather with signs reading, "We are residents of Almaty, not terrorists."

“The protests unfolding in Kazakhstan, which have turned violent, are a direct consequence of the authorities' widespread repression of basic human rights," said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International's director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, on Wednesday. "For years, the government has relentlessly persecuted peaceful dissent, leaving the Kazakhstani people in a state of agitation and despair."

“Instead of threatening to crack down on protesters, the Kazakhstani authorities must resolve the situation peacefully by immediately and unconditionally releasing all those who have been arbitrarily detained and addressing past abuses committed by the state," Struthers added. "Protesters accused of internationally recognized crimes for violent actions should be provided with fair trials in accordance with international human rights law."

Free press advocates also condemned reports that at least eight journalists have been detained for reporting on the uprising while at least two news sites have been blocked for covering the events of the past week.

The Ministry of Information said as the protests grew that outlets which "knowingly [spread] false information" would face an increased maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison.

"We call on the Kazakh government to cease detaining members of the media, ensure the free flow of information, and take all possible measures to ensure the safety of journalists on the ground," said Gulnoza Said, Europe and Central Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Chief Urges Global Solidarity on Covid, Climate, and Debt Relief

"The last two years have demonstrated a simple but brutal truth, if we leave anyone behind, in the end, we leave everyone behind," said the secretary-general at the opening of the virtual Davos summit.

Jessica Corbett ·

Sinema's MLK Day Tweet Sparks Online Fury

One group criticized the Democratic senator from Arizona as "the white moderate MLK warned us about."

Andrea Germanos ·

Why Did Democratic AG Kill Flint Water RICO Case?

"Political corruption poisoned Flint and political corruption shielded the wrongdoers from accountability," said one critic following new revelations.

Kenny Stancil ·

Progressives Counter Cherry-Picked Quotes With MLK's True Legacy

Calling out those who have "weaponized" his words "to justify legislated white supremacy," Rep. Ayanna Pressley said King "was a radical dreamer with a bold vision for revolutionary change."

Jessica Corbett ·

'No Celebration Without Legislation': King Family Leads Voting Rights March

"I will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father's dream," said Martin Luther King III.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo