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Disability-rights activists launch their campaign in Almaty on September 3.
Several nongovernmental organizations representing physically disabled people in Almaty have launched a campaign to bring attention to their problems in Kazakhstan's largest city, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The action, which organizers stressed was nonpolitical, will last for several days, during which participants will visit various public places and buildings in Almaty to chronicle obstacles for disabled people and seek ways to better deal with them.

Seyitzhan Kenzheuly, a member of the organization Zhiger (Persistence) who is legally blind, told RFE/RL that by locating all possible barriers to access in public places, the disabled were asserting their right to be treated as full-fledged members of society.

Campaign coordinator Almas Myrzabekov said that, for example, there was no way for blind citizens to find the doors of shops or to get information about what items are on sale.

University students have volunteered to help the participants, some of whom are in wheelchairs or on crutches.

Some 100 disabled people intended to take part in the campaign, but the Almaty city administration gave permission for only 70.

The staff of the district prosecutor's office observed the participants as they started their action on September 3 from Almaty's Old Square.

According to official statistics, some 3 percent of Kazakhstan's population of 16 million are physically disabled.
Shiva Nazar Ahari (file photo)
There have been calls for the release of Iranian human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari, ahead of the scheduled start of her trial on September 4, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Ahari has been held in Tehran's Evin prison since December 2009 on charges of waging war against God (moharebeh), endangering national security, and antistate propaganda. If found guilty, she could face the death penalty.

The global advocacy group Human Rights Watch, the American Islamic Congress, and the National Iranian American Council have all issued calls for Ahari's release in recent days.

Faraz Sanei of Human Rights Watch told RFE/RL on September 2 that concern over Ahari's case is growing. He described the situation as "critical."

Sanei said the Iranian judiciary also claimed Ahari has links to the banned Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization. But he believes the main reason for the charges brought against her is her human rights activities.

"Shiva is a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, and as you know a few members of this committee were arrested following the June 2009 presidential election in Iran, and others fled the country, Sanei said, adding that Ahari's colleague Kouhyar Goudarzi was also in Evin prison.

On September 1, the American Islamic Congress named Ahari the recipient of its first Advocate Behind Bars award.

The award is given to outstanding civil-society activists who have demonstrated leadership, had an exceptional impact, and are unjustly imprisoned.

"Shiva Nazar Ahari is a courageous advocate for human rights and an inspiring role model for women in the region," American Islamic Congress Executive Director Zainab al-Suwaij said.

Suwaij urged the Iranian authorities to release Ahari immediately and drop all charges against her.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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