When banker Darkhan Botabayev tried to book a flight on Kazakhstan’s national airline last September, what started as a routine transaction turned into an assault that shocked the nation: Botabayev lost his temper and punched the young female ticket clerk in the face.
Another violent incident occurred in October, when Kanatbay Turmaganbetov, a rural mayor in northern Kazakhstan, took exception to a woman photographing a billboard of President Nursultan Nazarbayev: He summoned her to his office where he “bashed her head against the wall, punched her several times in the chest and kicked her,” according to a local media report.
Turmaganbetov was prosecuted, fined and fired; Botabayev was forced to resign as a member of Kazinvestbank’s board and blacklisted by Air Astana – after which he apologized to his victim bearing a bouquet of flowers, and donated $10,000 to charity. These incidents caused an outcry in Kazakhstan, but activists point out that they aren’t isolated cases. Most disturbingly, many assaults against women take place behind closed doors.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.