stop confusing all practicing Muslims with radical minority, newspaper
editor says.  By Almaz Rysaliev


expert describes effects of continuing campaign against anyone the
government sees as potential subversive.  By Saule Mukhametrakhimova


Islamic radicals not as great as incident suggests, analysts say,
although resentment of the authorities is widespread.  By Almaz
Rysaliev, Saule Mukhametrakhimova

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Authorities need to stop confusing all practicing Muslims with radical
minority, newspaper editor says.

By Almaz Rysaliev

Kazakstan’s first suicide bomber and a group of armed men accused of
killing two policemen all hail from the north-western Aktobe region,
and are believed to belong to informal Islamic communities that exist
outside the control of the state controlled Muslim clerical body.

In mid-May, a man called Rahimjan Makhatov blew himself up at the
local office of the security service in the city of Aktobe. In an
unrelated incident at the end of June, two policemen were shot dead in
the village of Shubarshi in the same region, sparking a manhunt that
ended with 12 people dead. (For the full story, see Kazak Police
Eliminate "Islamic" Cop-Killers.)

Although the suicide attack and the conflict around Shubarshi do not
appear to be directly linked, what they do have in common is that the
individuals involved were known to be devout Muslims practicing their
faith among their own circle, outside the mainstream mosques.

IWPR asked Azamat Maitanov, deputy editor-in chief of the newspaper
Akjayik in Atyrau, also in western Kazakstan, to describe the Islamic
groupings that currently exert the most influence, and the ideas their
supporters believe in.

Azamat Maitanov: The information I have, for Aktobe region in
particular and western Kazakstan more generally, is that there are a
lot of followers of “jihadism”, a radical strand that regards holy war
as the principal and supreme doctrine of Islamic ideology.

What one needs to understand and distinguish is that there are several
groups and communities in Kazakstan that bear similar religious
features, but believe different things.

Each of them has its own influential, local spiritual leader. The most
well-known of these are Rinat Abu Muhammad, who has “Madkhalist” views
[followers of Saudi Salafi scholar Rabi ibn Hadi al-Madkhali, critical
of jihadi ideas]; Daryn Mubarov, a Kazak preacher of Murji'ism [Salafi
doctrine advocating cooperation with rulers regardless of their
failings]; and the North African Al-Rezki, a former veterinary student
who has now left Kazakstan. Among those religious communities that are
described as Salafi, speeches by Abdulkhalil Abdujabbarov, better
known as Khalil, are popular. He spent several years officially
teaching at a mosque in Atyrau, but is now wanted by Interpol and is
in hiding in Saudi Arabia.

Relations between these religious groups vary –some regard the others
as brothers in faith, while others accuse the rest of losing their
way, heresy and lack of faith.

The Kazak authorities, security service and media generally lump
together all groups whose religious practice and views differ from
those of the official spiritual authority under the terms Wahhabi or

IWPR: How should we view the actions of the suicide bomber in Aktobe
within the context of the radical Islamic ideas now prevalent in

Maitanov: Let’s take jihadism.... jihadi scholars have issued numerous
fatwas giving clear instructions about how to wage war against
infidels and against secular authorities whom they dismiss as “taghut”
[false, alien to God]. There is, for example, a fatwa by Sheikh Abu
Jandal al-Azadi, a jihadi ideologue in Saudi Arabia, giving permission
to kill representatives of institutions that protect taghut. This
fatwa… justifies the killing of police and other law-enforcement
members associated with a secular government.

All the jihadi dogma has been translated from Arabic and is widely
available on the internet. Any Muslim seeking more knowledge may come
across them and pick up on these ideas.

IWPR: Apart from internet, what other channels are there for spreading
radical Islamic ideas in Kazakstan?

Maitanov: The nearest place to Kazakstan from which jihadi ideology
emanates is the Russian Federation, and specifically the North

One of the main ideologues of jihadism in the post-Soviet region is
the preacher Said Buryatsky [Alexander Tikhomirov, from Buryatia in
Siberia, killed by Russian forces in Ingushetia in 2010]. Buryatsky
visited Kazakstan, notably Aktobe, and gave talks on several
occasions. It’s been confirmed that Buryatsky met Kazak pilgrims
during the Hajj in Mecca in 2006.

It isn’t surprising that young people from Aktobe region should have
been the first to go down the jihadi route. Young men around
Makhatov’s age [25], went to the North Caucasus, where they believed
an underground group of Caucasus Muslims was building a theocratic
Islamic Emirate of Caucasus. The media regularly report the death or
detention of Kazak nationals in the Caucasus, and most of them come
from the Aktobe region.

IWPR: You note that devout Muslims in Kazakstan follow a range of
ideas. But isn’t there a distinction to be made between those with a
radical agenda and those who are simply devout Muslims?

Maitanov: There are groups that follow Islamic strictures in their
daily lives and families – growing a beard, or wearing the Muslim
headscarf or hijab, without trying to impose their beliefs on others.
Others, though, call for the establishment of an Islamic state or
caliphate, while some are waiting for a Messiah to unite all Muslims.
They are wrongly referred to as Salafis or Wahhabis. If you ask any of
them, they’ll say they follow Taza Din, the Pure Faith.

IWPR: How would you describe Taza Din supporters?

Maitanov: They were the first Muslims in western Kazakstan to be
independent [outside the state-regulated mosques] and to follow
Islamic rules in their community, but without imposing their views on
others or calling for a caliphate.

The group was swiftly subjected to persecution by the official
religious body and the authorities. After several arrests and human
rights abuses, [many] have been forced to emigrate to Europe.

IWPR: How did radical Islamic ideas – as opposed to the moderate
Hanafi school of Sunni Islam that is traditional in Central Asia –
take off in Kazakstan?

Maitanov: At the beginning of the Nineties, a range of Islamic
ideologies began displacing the common form of Islam that had been
tightly controlled by the Soviet state. They were brought in by
volunteers [missionaries] from Turkey and Arab countries, who were
made welcome in the former Soviet states.

It was also at this time that the first students from Kazakstan went
off to the Middle East, absorbed dogma that had been there for
centuries, and brought it back home to elderly mullahs who practiced
the traditional Hanafi rituals or Sufism. That led to the first
debates and arguments about whether it was right to read the Koran for
money [at ceremonies like weddings] or about what the right form of
prayer was.

These harmless debates subsequently grew into a confrontation [between
traditional and incoming ideas] and led to persecution. Some gave up,
and fell into line behind the Religious Directorate of Kazakstan
Muslims, while others withdrew and began teaching the like-minded in
their own homes.

IWPR: The authorities reject the view put forward by human rights
defenders that cracking down on followers of fundamentalist trends who
worship outside the state-controlled mosques is fomenting radicalism
among them. What’s your take on that?

Maitanov: I’m profoundly convinced that it’s impossible to tackle
religious extremism through punitive action. For example, the phrase
[used by then Russian president Vladimir Putin] that [militants]
should be “drowned in the toilet” has aggravated the problems Russia
is facing in the North Caucasus, where a civil war is going on
accompanied by monstrous violations of human rights.

In Kazakstan, the current policy is intolerance and repression of
dissent, persecution on the grounds of religious belief, and the
fabrication of criminal cases. Mosque-goers are told they are “praying
the wrong way”, and are forced into a straitjacket of invented rules.
The authorities alienate devout citizens, violate their constitutional
rights, attach labels to them, and arrest them for wearing a beard.

For example, in the Isatay district of Atyrau region, the district
government chief barred an imam from going to the mosque on the
grounds that he was “not traditional”. The crazy bureaucrat posted
policement outside the mosque and personally checked to ensure that
only certain people attended Friday prayers.

On top of all that, there are problems like inequality, unemployment
and the complete corruption of the authorities. All this radicalises
the views not only of the devout, but also of the average citizen.

Personal faith is a delicate matter that cannot be measured by secular
rules. Everyone’s relationship to God is an intimate and private
affair. It is frightening that after killing off faith in common human
values, the authorities are trampling on and trying to appropriate the
final, most sacred thing – belief in God.

This is creating fertile ground for the seeds of jihadism and of other
kinds of religious extremism to grow. The first fruit are already in
evidence, in the shape of Makhatov and the gunmen from Shubarshi.

IWPR: What can you say about “religious” prisoners, whose numbers are
believed by human rights groups to run into the hundreds?

Maitanov: I think there are hundreds of these religious prisoners.
What’s more, many of those convicted in connection with religious
activity subsequently get additional jail terms. This practice has
been described by Adiljan Muzdybaev, a former prisoner who belonged to
a religious community in Mangystau [and was released in 2010 after
five years’ imprisonment].

According to Muzdybaev, religious prisoners from across Kazakstan were
brought together in one penal facility, No. 20, located in Jetikara in
the [northern] Kostanai region in 2007. They were subjected to torture
and degrading treatment, and forbidden to pray. All the religious
prisoners were held in a prison used for life sentences. Subsequently,
following complaints and letters, they were dispersed around different

Almaz Rysaliev is IWPR editor in Kazakstan.



Amnesty International expert describes effects of continuing campaign
against anyone the government sees as potential subversive.

By Saule Mukhametrakhimova

Recent events in western Kazakstan, a suicide attack and the a major
security operation against an armed group – opened have sparked a
debate on whether the harsh tactics used by the authorities are
driving devout Muslims towards radicalism.

In mid-May, a man blew himself up at the entrance to the local branch
of the National Security Committee in the city of Aktobe. In an
unrelated incident at the end of June, two policemen were shot dead in
the village of Kenkiak, in the Aktobe region. This prompted a massive
security sweep which ended with 12 people dead. In the latter case,
the suspects were known to have been part of an informal Islamic
grouping, though the extent to which this was a factor in their
confrontation with the authorities remains unclear. (For the full
story, see Kazak Police Eliminate "Islamic" Cop-Killers.)

IWPR asked Maisy Weicherding, a researcher with Amnesty
International’s Eurasia team, to comment on the extent to which the
continuing crackdown on alleged Islamic activists has a causal effect
on the growth of radicalism.

Maisy Weicherding: It is true, of course, that in many countries the
violent repression of political or religious movements has led to the
growth and radicalisation of these movements. However, this has rarely
happened in isolation – it is often accompanied by difficult
socio-economic situations, unequal distribution of wealth, corruption,
widespread poverty and youth unemployment.

The killing of the two police officers may have been linked to a
number of causes – maybe the killers had grievances against the
officers because of threats, extortion or corruption, maybe they had a
very personal family-related grievance, maybe it was linked to local
organised crime.

Indiscriminately blaming members of unregistered Islamic movements and
Islamist groups for any violent events or crimes, and ill-treating and
torturing them to make them confess, may be an easy way to fulfil
crime targets, but it will also contribute to the radicalisation of
their members in Kazakstan, as will the corruption of local officials,
including security forces, the unequal distribution of resources and
wealth and the failure of the state to provide equal access to
education, health, social services and justice.

IWPR: The Kazak authorities say the police have nothing against the
average committed Muslim, and only go after radicals who brainwash
young people in order to recruit them. What kind of harassment are
members of Muslim groups most commonly subjected to?

Weicherding: Because a number of Islamic movements and Islamist groups
are either not registered or are banned in Kazakstan, any activities
that members or followers undertake fall outside the scope of the law.
And so, in the eyes of the security forces, they are committing an
offence, often a criminal offence.

Harassment takes the form of raids on unregistered mosques, the
breaking up of prayer meetings, threats of violence or criminal
prosecution against members or suspected members of unregistered
groups and their families. Women often find that security forces will
ask them to remove their hijab [Islamic dress] or remove it forcibly

Amnesty International has received reports of beatings of men and
women believed to be members of an unregistered group. The media often
denounce members as terrorists or extremists prone to violence, with
no evidence. Many of them lose their jobs if they are so identified.

IWPR: What kind of Muslim groups are targeted by the police and the
National Security Committee, and what do they get accused of?

Weicherding: Among those most frequently targeted by the security
forces in Kazakstan, Amnesty International has noted the Islamist
political party Hizb ut-Tahrir. Other groups targeted are members of
various Salafi communities, Wahhabis, and members of the Ahmadi
community. This is by no means an exclusive list.

The official version is that members of these groups represent a
serious threat to the constitutional order and structure of the
country and to the security of the country’s citizens. These groups
are portrayed as terrorist, extremist organisations intent on
destroying the existing order and establishing a fundamentalist
Islamist regime which would deny citizens fundamental human rights.

IWPR: Human rights activists say that there are several hundred
religious prisoners in Kazakstan and that the courts frequently hand
down unjustifiably harsh sentences. What would you say about that?

Weicherding: This corresponds to information that Amnesty
International has received. We don’t have exact figures, but the
numbers of individuals detained on charges of membership or suspected
membership of Islamic movements or Islamist groups banned in
Kazakhstan, and convicted of criminal activities linked to that
membership, have been steadily increasing over the last decade.

It is true that in many of the cases that Amnesty International has
monitored over the years, members of banned Islamist groups or parties
have been sentenced to long terms in harsh-regime prison facilities
after blatantly unfair trials. For example, there was no presumption
of innocence; often the media would quote security officials as saying
the defendants guilty were even before the start of the trial.

Most trials were closed to the public and no independent monitors were
allowed into the courtroom. Often the families of the defendants
themselves were not allowed in.

Defendants alleged in court that they had been tortured to make them
confess to the charges, yet no judge ordered investigations into these
allegations, and in most cases the conviction was based solely on the
confession of the defendant.

IWPR: What allegations of abuse of “religious” prisoners have been
recorded by human rights organisations, and what can be done to stop

Weicherding: Some of the longer sentences entail lengthy periods of
solitary confinement. Some prisoners will not be allowed visits or
contact with their families for a year or more.

Pious Muslim prisoners may not be allowed to pray in prison, they may
be forced to clean toilets with their bare hands or do other jobs that
are deemed unclean according to their religious beliefs. Families and
human rights defenders have told Amnesty International that many are
singled out for regular beatings, subjected to threats of sexual
violence or to actual sexual violence, and are put in punishment cells
more often than other prisoners

One way to remedy the ill-treatment meted out to prisoners would be
for the Kazakhstan authorities to be strict and thorough about
implementing their international human rights obligations and about
making sure officials who mistreat prisoners are identified and
brought to justice. Increasing the mandate and resources – human,
financial and technical – of the public monitoring commissions would
enable them to visit prisons on a more regular basis. Unannounced
visits would bring to light more of the abuses.

Recommendations by these commissions should be mandatory.

This would benefit all prisoners.

IWPR: The authorities have expressed concern that the influence of
Muslim groups is spreading in places of detention as a result of
proselytising by prisoners. Is this true, and if so, do you know
whether they are just trying to attract more followers of the faith,
or recruiting new members of radical groups?

Weicherding: A number of independent organisations, academics and
human rights activists have expressed similar concerns about the
growth of groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir in places of detention not
only in Kazakstan but throughout Central Asia and in Russia. Whether
the proselytising is about attracting followers of the faith or
recruiting members to radical groups very much depends on who you ask.

For many of the so-called “non-traditional” religious or faith-based
groups, proselytism is an intrinsic and essential part of their
creeds…. according to these groups, it isn’t a radical or subversive
or indeed prohibited act, but part of their right to freely exercise
the religion and belief of their choice.

This is true of groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir as well as of Jehovah’s
Witnesses, Hare Krishna, Christian evangelist groups and others too.

In the authorities’ eyes, proselytism is unlawful, a subversive
anti-state activity, and individuals who proselytise – be it in places
of detention or elsewhere - are [seen as] trying to recruit members to
radical groups that are intent on undermining the constitutional order
or on overthrowing the state.

Saule Mukhametrakhimova is IWPR Central Asia editor in London.



Real threat posed by Islamic radicals not as great as incident
suggests, analysts say, although resentment of the authorities is

By Almaz Rysaliev, Saule Mukhametrakhimova

A shoot-out between security forces and a group of armed men accused
of an attack on police in the oil-rich west of Kazakstan has
highlighted a little-reported issue – rising resentment of the
authorities mixed with growing Islamic sentiment in the region, and a
government apparently struggling to respond appropriately.

Locals say the clash had more to do with specific grievances against
the police than with an outbreak in Islamic militancy. But with a
consensus that Islamic groups are growing in strength in this part of
Kazakstan, some analysts believe heavy-handed police tactic are
feeding resentment of the authorities, and could contribute to the
rise of more extreme Islamic groups.

A nine-day security operation to track down the killers of two
policemen ended on July 9 with a clash in the village of Kenkiak, in
the Aktobe region of northwest Kazakstan. Nine people inside a house
were killed in a firefight that broke out when shots were fired from
inside at police conducting a search of the village. One police
officer also died, bringing to two the number killed since the
operation began.

Police eventually stormed the house and ended the siege.

The nine included all six men placed on a wanted list in connection
with the murder of two policemen in the nearby village of Shubarshi
overnight on June 30-July 1.

A spokesman for the police in Aktobe region, Almat Imangaliev, said
the attackers drove up to a police checkpoint and opened fire on
officers sitting in a car.

Immediately after the attack, a substantial force of interior ministry
troops equipped with armoured vehicles and helicopters were deployed
in the area, but the suspects had already left Shubarshi and were
hiding out in nearby reedbeds. Police offered a 100,000 US dollars
reward for information leading to their capture.

Ardak Kubasheva, a resident of Keniak, told IWPR that when the forces
arrived in Shubarshi they searched the homes of the suspects and took
some relatives away. Other villagers known to be devout Muslims were
also detained for questioning and then released.

There is some evidence that the murder of the two police officers was
a revenge attack, rather than a random act of violence.

A police source speaking on condition of anonymity told IWPR, “These
[wanted] individuals are members of a radical religious group. They
killed policemen who had taken part in detaining and questioning one
of their fellow-members.”


Many people in the area saw the massive security operation as an
overreaction, as the suspects were believed to have hunting weapons
rather than military small-arms. But the authorities may have been
driven to take stern measures as the attack on the policemen came only
a few weeks after a suicide bombing in Aktobe, the first ever in

Rahimjan Makhatov blew himself up on May 17 inside the Aktobe offices
of the National Security Committee. Three people were injured
including two security service officers.

Although many jumped to the conclusion that this was an attack by some
Islamic extremist group, the authorities steered clear of describing
the incident as a terrorist act. Instead, they painted a picture of
Makhatov as a suspected criminal who opted to kill himself rather than
go to jail.

The case illustrates the somewhat paradoxical approach taken by the
Kazak authorities – on the one hand, they talk about the dangers posed
by Islamic groups that go their own way, but at the same time they are
reluctance to dent the country’s image by suggesting there is a real
terrorist threat – all the more so in western regions where many
foreign oil companies have invested.


Whatever Makhatov’s motives, the symbolism of a suicide attack
followed by an armed attack by suspected Islamic militants is not lost
on anyone. Both the government and independent commentators agree that
radical strands of Sunni Islam have taken root in western Kazakstan.
Where they disagree is on the causes of this trend, and on how to deal
with it.

In western regions of Kazakstan which include Atyrau and Mangistau as
well as Aktobe, a fundamentalist strand of Islam has taken hold. Some
of the groups refer to themselves as followers of Taza Din or “the
pure faith”. Although they are Sunnis like most ethnic Kazaks, Taza
Din followers say they adhere to the true tenets of Islam, and
therefore keep themselves apart from Kazakstan’s religious
establishment and do not pray in the mosques it controls. (For more on
Taza Din, see Kazak Islamists Under Pressure.)

Meyrambek Kurmanov, who heads a department in the Aktobe regional
government that oversees religious groups as well as political
parties, said the existence of such groups was a serious threat to
national security.

“In our region, they are actively recruiting young people into the
ranks of the radicals,” he said. “Most of those recruited by radical
tendencies are… young people between the ages of 14 and 30.”

He said the authorities were trying to educate people about the risks
entailed by this kind of activity, but were hampered by the fact that
“there are very few educated experts on theology who are able to
explain what’s right and what’s wrong”.

Kurmanov said he did not believe Islamic missionaries from abroad were
visiting western Kazakstan, and instead the main spread of ideas was
probably via the internet.

By contrast, Murat Telibekov, head of a group called the Union of
Kazakstan Muslims, said he believed the Kazak Islamist groups were in
direct contact with similar groups in the Caucasus, since they are
separated only by the Caspian Sea.

“There’s a stream of extremist literature and missionaries coming in
from the North Caucasus,” he said.


Many other experts argue, meanwhile, that the surge in interest in
Islam can be attributed to local causes, ranging from economic
hardship to a sense of powerlessness against mistreatment by the

Andrei Grishin of the Kazakstan Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of
Law say radicalisation takes place when observant Muslims are
persecuted and pressured and realise they cannot obtain redress
through legal means.

Grishin said there were no precise figures for the number of people
convicted of crimes linked to Islamic radicalism, but that “it’s
estimated that there are 700 or 800 [such] prisoners, given that every
year a minimum of 50 people face charges of extremism and terrorism”.

In the recent events in and around Shubarshi, Kubasheva said she knew
some of the suspects, and while they were devout Muslims, they were
not Islamic militants.

“These guys have not committed criminal acts before,” she said. “They
were unemployed and they went to the official mosques.”

Attendance at an “unofficial” mosque – one not approved by the formal
Muslim establishment in Kazakstan – is often seen as a marker for
adherence to a more radical strand of Islam.

Alima Abdirova, who heads the Aktobe-based group Aru Ana and has met
many Islamists, said, “They [police] harass them and ask them why they
grow beards and why they don’t attend state-registered mosques.”

Many locals say the killing of the two policemen was direct
retaliation for the interrogation of two men whose car was stopped on
June 26 and was, according to police, found to contain a pistol and
two sawn-off shotguns.

According to Kubasheva, one of the men questioned returned home
completely shaken up, prompting others to take action.

IWPR put this concern to the police source, who said, “I don’t know
whether he was harshly treated or not”, and added that harsh treatment
was a “vague notion” that depended on one’s point of view.

“But it goes without saying that suspects don’t get a pat on the head
or offered a cup of coffee,” he continued. “We’re well aware of the
mentality of bandits, and of how to communicate with them so as to get
results. If we stuck to the etiquette, the crime-solving rate would be
considerably lower than it is. We have own tried-and-tested methods
for dealing with suspects… these methods work and help us not only
solve but also prevent crime.”

Others argue that far from dealing with the militant threat,
heavy-handed policing breeds the kind of resentment that could drive
radical but peaceful Islamists towards violence.

Concerns about the police’s behaviour increased when a relative of one
of the wanted suspects was shot dead by police on July 3, early on in
the operation.

Police spokesman Imangaliev said the man was killed after resisting
arrest and trying to flee when police arrived at his house in Kenkiak
following a tip-off. He said a hunting rifle, a religious pamphlet and
money were found at the scene.

Kanatov said he was surprised at this account, since the man was
unarmed at the time when he was gunned down. “The authorities are
behaving in a stupid way,” he added.

The killing left eyewitnesses scared for their own safety.

“People here are panicking, they’re in shock, they are scared.” Kubasheva said.

IWPR’s police source insisted that observant Muslims who did no harm
to others and were not plotting subversion were in no danger. “But
when it come to members of radical organisations, as well as all those
who want to overthrow the constitutional system through violence,
harsh polices are needed.”

He added, “If authorities show themselves to be weak and do nothing,
the radicals will interpret this in their own way and will start
expanding in earnest.”

The police source suggested that Kazakstan was unfairly subjected to a
different set of standards to those applied in western democracies.

“Why can they detain men who wear beard and look suspicious, or kill
Bin Laden and other armed religious fanatics, yet we have to respect
their human rights here?” he asked. “Bandits don’t have rights; their
only right is to be in prison.”

Kurmanov, too, rejected allegations that Islamists were unfairly
picked on by the police, and that this fed the process of

“I don’t agree with that,” he said. “The authorities don’t exert
pressure on members of religious groups. Quite the reverse, our
legislation is too liberal… Our laws prohibit the state from
interfering in religious matters.”

In 2009, Azamat Karimbaev, who was seen as the informal leader of the
Islamic community in Shubarshi, was arrested and convicted, with six
others, of planning a terrorist act. He was given 17 years, but died
in prison in December 2009.

His widow Ayman said her husband’s only “crime” was to build a mosque
for the village. The building was subsequently taken over by
Kazakstan's official Muslim clerical establishment.

Baktygul Kanatov, a lawyer who heads a group in Aktobe called For
Justice, said he believed these harsh sentences would effectively put
a stop to Islamic activity in the area. But he said that after the
developments of recent days, he had come to believe the group would
gain more supporters.


Although western Kazakstan should be one of the wealthier parts of the
country given that most of the oil and gas industry is based here,
many residents have not seen the benefits.

Abdirova pointed to causes of dissatisfaction that are especially
strong in the west – the contrast between low living standards of most
residents and the profits made by oil and gas companies, widespread
unemployment, and concerns about the environmental impact of the
hydrocarbons industry. (See also Kazakstan's Unhappy Oil Workers on
conditions on unrest in the industry.)

She said the village of Kenkiak, for example, had a pall of smog
hanging over it.

“I’ve visited the area in winter and summer, and it’s difficult to
breath there,” she said. “There’s been a case of water being poisoned,
there is unemployment, the soil isn’t good and there’s no [drinking]

Abdirova said many young people found it impossible to get work, even
if they had good qualifications. Jobs with oil companies are thin on
the ground, as employers either recruit highly-qualified oil engineers
or bring in workers from abroad.

Kurmanov denied that social ills had contributed to the rise of more
militant forms of Islam.

“In our [western] regions, in particular, these factors don’t play a
role. The social and economic situation is good, and there aren’t any
problems of this kind,” he said.

Once again, policing is an issue for the general population as well as
those who engage in forms of Islamic activity frowned on by the

“Our police don’t protect us,” Kanatov said. “You go and lodge a
complaint; let’s say [a businessman] reports that he’s the victim of
an extortion racket. Instead of helping, the police will side with
those who’ve got money.”

The police source dismissed such allegations of corruption, saying,
“There are a lot of people who believe we are doing God knows what,
that instead of catching murderers and thieves we are abusing the
rights of law-abiding citizens, even torturing them. What torture is
that – what are they talking about? “But when they face serious
problems, they come to us asking for help.”

On July 11, Kazakstan’s deputy interior minister Marat Demeuov
announced that two more individuals suspected of involvement in the
two policemen’s murder had been arrested.

In the latest twist in the official account of events, he said the two
men and the nine killed in a firefight had used Islamic ideas “as
cover” for criminal activities - the theft of oil from pipelines
running close to their villages.

Almaz Rysaliev is IWPR editor in Kazakstan. Saule Mukhametrakhimova is
IWPR Central Asia editor, based in London.

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REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a
unique insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local
journalists, the service publishes news and analysis from across
Central Asia on a weekly basis.

The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty,
Bishkek, Tashkent and London, which supports media development and
encourages better local and international understanding of the region.

IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund.
The service is published online in English and Russian.

The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or
of IWPR.

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing
Editor: Yigal Chazan; Senior Editor and Acting Central Asia Director:
John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule Mukhametrakhimova.

Borden; Head of Programmes: Sam Compton.

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ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2009 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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