NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh officials have forcibly placed a group of women from lower-income families who were picketing the Ministry of Labor and Social Support for increased government assistance into quarantine.
Video posted on Facebook showed a large group of individuals wearing protective equipment swarming the women at the ministry in Nur-Sultan, the capital, on June 10 and forcibly removing them in a chaotic scene punctuated by the screams of the protesters.
The women, who have been protesting outside the ministry since June 8, were taken to a nearby hotel.
When RFE/RL correspondents arrived at the hotel to get more information about the situation, individuals in protective garments and masks did not allow them to enter, saying that the hotel was now "a quarantine building."
Some 20 women launched the so-called "silent protests" after Kazakh authorities started lifting some restrictions imposed to slow down coronavirus spread.
The women were wearing sanitary masks marked with an "X" on them, which they said symbolized "the fact that we are not allowed to speak up."
They also held posters saying: "Cheap mortgages for families in need," "Financial support for each child," "Amnesty for poor families' bank credits," and "We are on a hunger strike."
Rallies and pickets by poor women have been held regularly in Nur-Sultan and other Kazakh cities since February last year, after five children from a single family died in a fire at night when their parents were working.
The tragedy triggered anger across the country and demonstrations where protesters demanded increased government support to families that had several children.
The protests were held periodically until restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus were introduced in mid-March.
Since the protests began last year, the Kazakh government has announced a special program to support families with more than three children.
Initially, such families were provided with an additional monthly allowance of 21,000 tenges ($50) per child. However, the sum has since been cut twice. From January, the allowances were given only to families officially recognized as living in poverty.
The women demanded a return of the benefits to the initial levels, as well as for more benefits to be given to all families with more than three children.