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21 Jan 2022

Abdujalil Abdurasulov,
BBC News

Kazakhstan: Protesters allegedly tortured and beaten, authorities threaten 'if you protest again, we'll kill you'

Kazakhstan unrest: 'If you protest again, we'll kill you', 21 January 2022

The armed men in uniforms checked every ward, shouting that they were looking for people wounded in mass unrest that had left scores dead. Asel, who had been shot in the violence and was being treated in the hospital in Kazakhstan's biggest city Almaty, recalled the chilling encounter.

"One of them shouted, 'if you go out to protest again, we will kill you'."

She believes the men with guns were from the special police forces or security services and were rounding up anyone who had taken part in anti-government protests... Like many others, she joined what started as peaceful protests against fuel price rises in early January. Kazakhstan has some of the world's largest oil reserves but most of the population doesn't share in the wealth...

The authorities are accused of using excessive force to restore order. Officially, 225 people were killed and many more were injured. Some 10,000 people have been detained in the wake of the disturbances, the authorities say... However, human rights groups say the authorities are cracking down on everyone who took part in the protests, including peaceful demonstrators. Even those who simply posted on Facebook in support of the protests are being detained. They face beatings and torture, activists say.

"There is no presumption of innocence," said Bakhytzhan Toregozhina, a human rights activist in Almaty. "They are all potential terrorists for the authorities and they try to force confessions out of them."

One activist Muratbek Yesengazy who took part in the protest on Almaty's main square is accused of participating in the violence. His lawyer told the BBC that he had been beaten in detention - photos show his leg covered in bruises.

The authorities flatly deny any detainees have been beaten or tortured...

Those who remained on the square on 6 January tried to hold a peaceful rally, among them many elderly men and women who were seeking an end to the shooting... At around 7pm, the military opened fire...