For almost a year now there have been peaceful, though often very passionate, demonstrations in major cities in Kazakhstan against government policies and top government figures.
Authorities have countered by detaining key leaders and organizers before or after announced rallies.
The pattern was repeated on the night of February 22, when there were again rallies. But on February 24, police in civilian clothes came to the home of one of Kazakhstan’s leading activists, Dulat Aghadil, and detained him.
Aghadil was dead before the sun rose on February 25, authorities say from a heart problem but a video of Aghadil’s body that emerged later on social media seemed to indicate the activist had been beaten.
Several groups quickly called for protests again on March 1.
So, this week, RFE/RL's Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderated a discussion on the continuing protests in Kazakhstan and what effect the death of Dulat Aghadil might have on the, as yet, small but growing anti-government sentiment.
From Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan, Zhanbolat Mamai, the leader of the unregistered Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, participated in the discussion. From Washington, Paul Stronski of the Carnegie Endowment’s Eurasia Department and author of many articles about Central Asia, notably about the changing political environment in Kazakhstan, joined the session. From Prague, Torokul Doorov, the head of RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, known locally as Azattyq, took part in the discussion. And I think what has been happening in Kazakhstan in the last year is probably the most interesting development in Central Asia at the moment, so I had a few things to say.