Kazakhstan holds a parliamentary election on January 10 that will be neither free nor fair, says human rights defender Ania Shukeyeva.
Today, January 10, 2021, Kazakhstan holds elections without a choice to parliament. I say with full confidence that this is an election without a choice, because Kazakhstani citizens cannot vote – you will be prosecuted administratively and criminally, you cannot be elected – you will be considered an extremist and could also be imprisoned or killed for dissent, and this is an election where you cannot support or campaign for anyone except the Nur Otan party.
Finally, this is an election where you can’t even do sociological research – it’s forbidden under Kazakhstan’s election law. The only ones who can do sociological research are organisations directly connected with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, akimats, the Presidential Administration of Kazakhstan, and of course the Nur Otan party itself. That is why organisations controlled by the regime are reporting propaganda for international observers of about 74 per cent support for the Nur Otan party, directly associated with the former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
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Pro-government parties only
It must be remembered that all registered parties in Kazakhstan are pro-government. The real opposition like the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) and the Koshe party are banned by secret decisions of the courts without right of appeal.
The leaders of these movements are pursued domestically by the Nazarbayev regime – with over 20 political prisoners and over 100 criminal activists from 15 cities. The regime also persecutes Mukhtar Ablyazov, leader of the DCK, abroad. He was recently granted political asylum in France.
We don’t have, as in Russia or Belarus, an opportunity to support any opposition candidate – they are killed – as happened with Dulat Agadil and his 17 year old son – or immediately imprisoned.
So now we are using a smart protest voting strategy: we are all voting for the pro-government Akzhol party to take votes away from Nur Otan. Nazarbayev will not survive the public shame if it is known that the party under his personal leadership got less than he said – and he wants more than 70 per cent.
That is why we have administrative and criminal persecution, beatings of independent observers, as happened in many cities. And there was even a recorded case where the police tortured an activist to make him vote for Nur Otan. That’s how Nazarbayev gets his 74 per cent. And we are trying to record and report it to the international community like you.
In reality Nazarbayev cannot have even five per cent. The people of Kazakhstan are tired of 30 years of dictatorship. My son is seven years old. Our house is saturated with talk about political prisoners and the political situation in the country. My son knows by hearsay how you have to fight and stand your ground so that you can talk and move freely in a dictatorial country.
Our house is regularly visited by the police in order to exert pressure, to set up surveillance, to wiretap the house or to detain me in anticipation of planned peaceful protests.
I am 32 years old and have two university degrees. I am a former school teacher who can no longer broadcast the propaganda of the Nazarbayev regime. Thousands of my colleagues across the country in recent months have been participating under pressure to rig elections. As they have been doing for 30 years. That’s why none of our elections have been recognised as democratic. But I said to myself – enough is enough. I want my son and my daughter to have the right to choose, to develop and to live in a democratic society.
Defending the constitution
That’s why I became a human rights activist, and since 2018 I have been constantly participating in peaceful protests, solitary pickets in defence of the Constitution of Kazakhstan, the rights of political prisoners.
Together with our human rights colleagues we are trying to reach out to the European Union diplomats in Astana, who for some reason hear only one side – our authorities. But they completely ignore the voice of civil society and do not name those who are politically persecuted or even politically killed. I say this because I see how much the European Union diplomats support the civil societies of Belarus, Russia and other countries. All this considerably weakens our position especially in the days of parliamentary elections. This is one of the reasons why the authorities feel unpunished, they keep on plundering our budget and exporting our capitals and families to Western countries.
As of January 9 we have 31 political prisoners (20 of them opposition leaders), almost 100 more could become political prisoners at any moment; we have dozens of house arrests and banned from public activities, hundreds of people under administrative detention or heavy fines (from 150 to 1,200 euros) for daring to defend their right to fair elections, human rights or stand against torture.
I am also regularly prosecuted in politically motivated criminal and administrative cases. I do not know when and how I may be arrested. I may be arrested tomorrow when I try to find out the state of health and lists of people arbitrarily detained in police buildings.
We are scared. But it is scarier to remain silent and not participate in the liberation of Kazakhstan. And we very much need the solidarity and publicity of EU journalists, especially when EU diplomats keep silent and echo Nazarbayev’s propaganda, silently watching us being killed and arrested right under the walls of the EU embassy… Our Kazakh journalists have been killed or jailed, strangled with fines.
It is especially hard to watch how international treaties are concluded between Kazakhstan and the EU, and there is little talk about the trampling of human rights at the very end.
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