Authorities Detain Another Kazakh Activist Ahead Of Nazarbaev's Birthday Celebrations

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh authorities have detained another activist as they continue a crackdown amid preparations to mark the 81st birthday of former President Nursultan Nazarbaev in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Aizhan Abenova informed her friends by phone on June 29 that police were taking her to a police station in Nur-Sultan. It was not immediately clear why she was detained.

A day earlier, police in Nur-Sultan detained two other civil right activists -- Marat Musabaev and Qaiyrgeldy Nurghaliev -- and charged them with violating laws on public gatherings.

Hours later, a city court sentenced Nurghaliev to 15 days in jail and Musabaev to 20 days in jail.

Local activists say that the incarcerations are connected to a call by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the leader of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, for a demonstration on July 6, the day the country's capital, Nur-Sultan, is celebrated in tandem with Nazarbaev's birthday.

Kazakhstan changed the name of its capital to Nur-Sultan in 2019 to honor Nazarbaev, who ruled with an iron fist from the nation’s independence in 1991 until 2019. The renaming of the capital from Astana to Nur-Sultan sparked protests across the country at the time.

Nazarbaev continues to wield considerable influence as chairman of the Security Council and enjoys almost limitless powers as "elbasy" -- leader of the nation.

Kazakh authorities have banned DVK and its associate, the Koshe (Street) party, labeling them as extremist organizations.

Dozens of activists have been on hunger strike in Nur-Sultan and several other cities in Kazakhstan, including Almaty, Oral, Oskemen, and Shymkent, since June 19, demanding the cancellation of court decisions to ban DVK and Koshe.

One hunger striker in the southern city of Shymkent had to stop his protest on June 29 after his health deteriorated and an ambulance was called to treat him.

Under President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, who was handpicked by Nazarbaev, Kazakhstan continues to clamp down on freedom of speech and harass opposition members.

Police last year detained dozens of journalists and bloggers and launched criminal cases for alleged crimes such as spreading false information and inciting the public, according to Adilsoz, a local media watchdog.