Officials in Kazakhstan are trying to listen to disgruntled residents of Zhanaozen, the scene of violent clashes last December that left at least 17 dead. The problem is, goodwill ambassadors from Astana are not saying the things that seething citizens want to hear.
The difficulties surrounding the healing process were on display February 10, when, on a bitterly cold morning, over 450 people gathered at a center-city venue in Zhanaozen to meet with two visiting members of Kazakhstan’s parliament. One of the MPs, Kamal Burkhanov of the governing Nur Otan Party, opened the discussion with a 40-minute speech that extolled the virtues of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s economic development programs. Then, one by one, residents took a turn at the microphone, many using the opportunity to excoriate the visitors for ignoring the town’s plight.
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Nate Schenkkan is a Bishkek-based journalist.