Impressive vestige of the uprising against power, the facade of the town hall of Almaty (Kazakhstan) is now covered in black. Workers are still working to clear the building, destroyed by the flames. “Nothing is left”, slips an employee who takes away the few objects that can still be saved. In the middle of last week, the city was the epicenter of the largest and most violent protest in 30 years in the country.
Officially, there would have been 225 dead, but this toll could be even higher, judging by the queue in front of the morgue. The body of a man has just been identified, the end point of an interminable wait. “We started looking on social networks, when boarding school was restarted”, testifies a friend who came to inquire in front of the building, as a last resort.
The power accuses terrorist groups of being at the origin of the violence, when the opposition denounces groups of criminals manipulated to degenerate demonstrations which began peacefully. The repression, however, was very severe. France 2 was able to meet a demonstrator after his release from detention, who is barely standing and struggling to express himself. “We hit him with a hammer and there, with a truncheon”, explains his brother. “For a week, we beat him up every day.”
The police still continue to hunt down opponents. While France 2 met one of them, at his home, the police came knocking on the door. “They are coming to arrest me”, immediately produced Djambolat Mamaï, while remaining in the background. With her phone, his wife broadcasts the scene on social networks to alert her husband’s supporters. Upon learning of the journalists’ presence, the agents finally turn around. “They are looking for activists and peaceful demonstrators. The government is not going to start political reforms, we can see that”, says the opponent.
Most Almaty residents say they are relieved that the violence has stopped, but the roots of anger persist. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, while the poverty rate is high. “The prices have gone up, that’s why the people went out into the streets, because it was brutal”, summarizes a passerby. After the violent turn of the last demonstrations, and the violent crackdown that followed, the majority of Kazakhs do not seem ready to return to the streets.