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Crowd Protests Land Sales In Kazakhstan

  • RFE/RL

Activist Maks Bokaev speaks to demonstrators at a protest rally against the sale of land to foreigners in Atyrau on April 24.

Activist Maks Bokaev speaks to demonstrators at a protest rally against the sale of land to foreigners in Atyrau on April 24.

Around 1,000 people have staged a rare public protest the Kazakh city of Atyrau, rallying against the government's decision to sell land in auctions.

The protest in the central Isatai-Makhambet Square on April 24 came as public fears in the city have grown that changes in the Land Code could allow sales of land to foreigners, though the government has said this will not happen.

Senior city and regional officials arrived at the scene and sought to disperse the rally by addressing the crowd and saying the Land Code did not threaten public interests. They also said that the rally was unsanctioned and protesters must disperse.

Organizers' request for official permission to stage the rally had previously been denied.

Protesters did not immediately leave and remained in the square for several hours amid the heavy presence of both uniformed and plainclothes police, though authorities did not use force to disperse the rally.

The oil region's governor, Nurlan Nogaev, told the crowd that he would relay the demonstrators' concerns to lawmakers and the government in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

WATCH: In the Kazakh city of Atyrau, around 1,000 people staged a rare public protest to denounce a government decision to sell land in auctions.

The amendments to the Land Code are set to take effect on July 1. They will allow the government to sell land to joint ventures, as long they are controlled by Kazakh residents.

Kazakhstan continues to bar land sales to foreigners, but the amendments will extend the maximum term of lease to foreigners from 15 years to 25 years.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has led the country for more than two decades, has kept a tight lid on dissent during his reign over the country, which is the second-largest exporter of hydrocarbons in the former Soviet Union after Russia.

Slumping oil prices, however, have triggered a slide in the country's currency, sparking public protests over the past year both in Astana and the Central Asian nation's economic hub and largest city, Almaty.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and Reuters
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