Warsaw, 30 July, 2013
Adam Michnik, a former participant of the democratic opposition, a former political prisoner
Adam Michnik's appeal to the President of Kazakhstan:
Warsaw, 8th July 2013
President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Dear Mr President,
The public opinion of numerous countries - Poland included - have witnessed with growing concern, the developments in Kazakhstan: limitations of democratic freedoms, repressions against independent media, imprisonment of opposition-related persons or ones criticising the policy of the official government. Repressions have overshadowed civil dialog; hubris, arrogance and hypocrisy of the ruling party camp make one prone to suspect that in democracy's stead - which the friends of Kazakhstan were so prone to believe - the philosophy of the way of dictatorship is coming to the fore. This is having a disastrous toll on the image of Kazakhstan around the world - not to mention the one of Your kind self.
This is not the way to take. Suppressing freedom is a destructive action, one which is blocking the country's development, eroding human dignity and extinguishing hope. Permanent repressions must eventually lead to an outburst of civil anger, and sometimes even to civil war. These are the grim scenarios. If they are to be avoided, the conflict must be coined into a dialog.
Dear Mr President - I have taken the liberty of writing to Your kind self from my standpoint as a person bearing deep admiration and sympathy for Kazakhstan. I harbor the point of view of someone who watched their own country in the sorrowful times of confrontation between the authorities and society, as well as the hopeful time of dialog which paved the way to democratic order. Hence my appeal to Your kind self to cease repression against the independent media, as their independence is a fundamental prerequisite for a partnership dialog between the government and the opposition. I do plead with you to release Vladimir Kozlov, Roza Tuletayeva, Vadim Kuramshin, the imprisoned oil workers and opposition activists. I also humbly beg Your kind self to stop repressions against their families. These brave people are the treasure of Kazakhstan, and it is their right to have unrestrained and free participation in public life.
The dialog between the authorities and the forming of civil society are vital conditions for the creation of a 'Kazakhstan for all', including all the citizens of the Republic, and only for the chosen ruling few and the ones obeying the authorities. My plea to Your kind self is to release these prisoners.
I call upon Your sense of responsibility and Your conscience. May Your senses not remain idle and may they stir upon this appeal.
Remaining sincerely Yours
(former democratic opposition activist, former prisoner of conscience)
Who's who in a letter to Nazarbayev?
Vladimir Kozlov is the founder of the 'Alga' association, the largest opposition party in Kazakhstan. He demanded respect for human rights in the country. He was engaged in the establishment of civil society defending citizens against the ruthless administration. In 2004, he closely watched the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Thus, he has become a personal enemy of the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been governing the country with an iron fist since 1989. During Soviet times, Nazarbayev was the head of the Communist Party in Kazakhstan, before becoming president. He transformed the country into a private farm, where everything is dependent on the will of one man:73-year-old Nazarbayev.
Kozlov was arrested in January 2012 for participation in strikes in the Zhanaozen oil basin, where a few months earlier, oil workers had gone on strike. 'Alga!' provided protesters with food and water, and Kozlov heartened them.
The workers revolted when they realised that the 'KazMunaiGaz' company was trying to cheat them. It was spring 2011. The protests spread all over the oil-rich, western, Mangistau Province and ended with a massacre in the town of Zhanaozen in December. It took place on the day of the 20th anniversary of the country's independence.
According to official data, 17 people were killed, but unofficial reports claimed that as many as 100 lost their lives. The police, firing live ammunition into unarmed crowds, were responding in this way to the alleged provocation. During the first days following the tragedy, law enforcement services were not engaged in investigation, but were rather seeking to ensure that no information left Zhanaozen. They frantically searched for the capturers of amateur video footage, showing how the local militia officers, hiding behind their plexiglass shields, were pointing their guns at the fleeing crowd and striking those who had fallen to the ground with batons.
Lower-ranking police officers and, predominantly, workers were dragged through the courts. The process took several months and all independent observers, including the Polish MEP Piotr Borys and MP Marcin Święcicki agree that these processes failed to adhere to democratic standards.
After the sanguinary suppression of protests, Kozlov drew attention to the case abroad. For inciting social hatred and attempting to overthrow the regime, he was later sentenced to 7.5 years' imprisonment in a show trial.
Roza Tuletayeva was sentenced to five years' in prison for providing help to striking workers. 'Amnesty International' wrote about her case in the following way: "During the trial in 2012, Roza Tuletayeva, an activist who supported workers and was subsequently accused of co-organising the events of December 2012, testified that the officers of the security forces hung her by her hair and put a plastic bag over her head, choked her and sexually humiliated her. They also threatened to harm her fourteen-year-old daughter".
Vadim Kuramshin, a renowned human rights activist, did not escape torture while in custody. He was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment with confiscation of property for allegedly conspiring to murder the prosecutor'. According to the opposition, the allegation was completely fabricated.