Olesya Khalabuzar goes about her daily business under the formidable, blindfolded figure of Lady Justice.
That symbol is at the core of her political movement, aptly named Justice.
“It’s very simple,” the 37-year old veteran political activist told EurasiaNet.org in her small rented office in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty. “The party’s goal is to attain justice. Legal justice, social justice and, naturally, justice in defending human rights.”
There is a Quixotic flavor to that goal in a country dogged by violations of political and civil liberties, as well as by rampant corruption. Undeterred, Khalabuzar’s fledgling movement — called Adildik in Kazakh, and Spravedlivost in Russian — is throwing down the gauntlet to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, challenging him to reckon with grassroots voices.
Justice is arriving on the scene at a politically auspicious moment, as Astana grapples with an economic crunch that has deflated optimism about a prosperous future fueled by sales of oil and other natural resources.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.