ASTANA -- Hundreds of mothers have staged a protest in Astana following the deaths of five children from a single family in a house fire in the Kazakh capital.
The protesters on February 6 demanded that the government provide proper housing, more places for children in public kindergartens, and increased social allowances for families with more than one child.
A fire on February 4 destroyed the tiny house of a family in Astana, killing five girls aged 3 months to 13 years, while both parents were away working overnight shifts.
The mothers at the February 6 protest urged the government to provide families with more than one child enough financial support that both parents don't have to work to make ends meet.
Some protesters also called for the resignation of Labor and Social Protection Minister Madina Abylqasymova, who recently said in public that social allowances for mothers should not be increased.
Authorities invited some of the protesters into the Astana Concert Hall, where Astana Deputy Mayor Ermek Amanshaev promised the women he would look into all of their demands "in accordance with the law."
The women who met with Amanshaev read out their demands, which were addressed to both the government and to President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
In Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, dozens of protesters also gathered in front of the city administration building with the same demands. Most were women. While some were allowed to enter the building to meet with city authorities, journalists were not granted access to the talks.
The girls' deaths sparked harsh criticism of the government on social media, with many saying authorities do not do enough to help families survive the harsh economic realities in Kazakhstan.
Many criticized Nazarbaev, who said in his New Year's address to the nation on December 31 that "all necessary conditions" have been created during his nearly 30-year presidency to help ordinary citizens.
The government has been criticized for failing to declare a national day of mourning to commemorate the dead girls.
Emergency service officials told RFE/RL earlier that the children's father is employed by a car-repair company and that the mother works at a plant that produces payment cards.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral and burial of the girls in Astana on February 5.
The cause of the deadly fire remains under investigation.