Inter-ethnic card tried to be played in Kazakhstan

Victoria Panfilova, columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specially for Vestnik Kavkaza
A trigger was a conflict between Kazakhs and Armenians in Ancient Rome Restaurant

Kazakhstan was thrown into confusion a week ago. A trigger for that was a conflict between Kazakhs and Armenians. 23-year old Rakhymzhan Zhanseitov was killed in a fight in Ancient Rome Restaurant. Two men were hospitalized with stabbings. Nine participants of stabbing rampage were arrested, including a citizen of Armenia who flew to Russia, Narek Gururyan. It was reported by Almas Sadubayev, Director of the Foreign Communication Department of the Kazakhstan Interior Ministry.

The authorities reacted to the tragic incident too late, after the locals were stirred up and went to the central square of Karaganda with social demands. Experts believe the personal domestic conflict may turn into serious inter-ethnic problems.

Zhanat Suleymanov, Deputy Interior Minister, explained the situation to journalists eight days after the incident. According to him, the conflict was personal and domestic, i.e. it wasn’t a fight between Kazakhs and Armenians – participants of fighting were employees of the restaurant and their clients who called for friends’ backing. Suleymanov stated that the reason for the conflict was working hours of the restaurant which got closed on 4 a.m. Drunk clients were dissatisfied with the fact. 9 rowdies were arrested, including Narek Gururyan who is a murder suspect. The other day, he posted a video in his social networks, admitting his participation in the fight but he denied blood. Gururyan was arrested by the criminal police of Kazakhstan and Russian law-enforcement agencies because he managed to fly to the Omsk Region of Russia. According to Almas Sadubayev, a decision is pending about extradition of Gururyan to Kazakhstan.

The society attentively follows the developments. More than 200 people rallied in Karaganda after local youth nationalistic groups tried to destroy or damage facilities which belonged to Armenians and information on an inter-ethnic ground of the conflict was spread in social networks. Protesters demanded an independent investigation of the case and involvement of social activists in the investigation.

Dosym Satpayev, Director of the Risk Assessment Group, told Vestnik Kavkaza that people don’t want to let the investigation drop and let “wealthy people” stay unpunished. “They hint on corruption,” the expert stressed. He thinks a knot of various protest moods is formed in Karaganda. “In Kazakhstan, even small incidents can turn into big problems. A domestic conflict can acquire inter-ethnic and inter-religious elements. The reason for the conflict stirred up popular discontent of Kazakhs was that many of them feel social outsiders in their country. People are infuriated with the government’s wrong steps as instead of informing the population, gathering social activists and offsetting aggressive mood, they threatened with criminal and administrative sanctions for participation in rallies. Rumors led to a strong and aggressive reaction in Kazakhstan. Of course it caused new rumors which turned into a disaster in Armenia,” Satpayev said.

The expert believes the events in Karaganda may happen in other regions of the country. There were a lot of incidents in the modern Kazakhstan history, which turned from local personal disputes into inter-ethnic conflicts. All the time, every situation was settled due to Diasporas’ wisdom. This time wasn’t an exception. “We, the Armenian Diaspora of the Karaganda Region, regret profoundly the happened incident and death of the man. Unfortunately, Armenians participated in the incident. We are mourning and sincerely apology for what happened,” Artur Navasardyan, the Chairman of the Erebuni Armenian Cultural Center, stated.

Dosym Satpayev thinks that if the authorities accuse someone of social conflicts it is a result of failed social and interior policy. If accusations of inter-ethnic conflicts become numerous it is a result of failed state ethnic policy. “Many problems in the social sphere, ethnic policy, working with the youth, the media sphere, law-enforcement cases, and so on are not being solved. They are put far off. But new problems fall on the old ones. And they can hide nothing anymore,” Satpayev told Vestnik Kavkaza.

He says the Karaganda conflict has stepped to the international level. The Armenian Foreign Ministry and Premier Nikol Pashinian have already commented it. However, one can ask Yerevan – why had the Armenian authorities made their statements only after prevocational statements of local nationalists on genocide of the Armenians in Kazakhstan?

© Photo :A trigger was a conflict between Kazakhs and Armenians in Ancient Rome Restaurant