Religious life in Kazakhstan features a glaring dichotomy these days. Officials in Astana tout the country as a bastion of toleration, yet they are making it harder for those practicing what are deemed non-traditional faiths to worship openly.
No matter how hard officials in Kazakhstan try to bring closure to last winter’s outburst of violence in and around the western city of Zhanaozen, the incident continues to dent the Central Asian nation’s reputation for stability and rising prosperity.
An attempt to render justice is quickly turning into a PR debacle for Kazakhstan. Troubling allegations that torture was employed to obtain incriminating statements is engulfing the trial of 37 individuals accused in connection with a deadly riot last December in the western oil town of Zhanaozen.
Kazakhstan’s efforts to mete out justice relating to the Zhanaozen violence late last year appear to be exacerbating the prevailing sense of unfairness among residents in western regions of the country.
You see banners all across Kazakhstan, strung across government buildings, on airport runways, and on billboards lining the streets of provincial capitals. They all say the same thing: “The primary values of the state are stability and the unity of the people of Kazakhstan. – N. Nazarbayev.”