The Night The Night

January 11, 2022

Almaty, Kazakhstan

On January 4, 2022, people in many cities and towns of Kazakhstan joined the peaceful protests in solidarity with Zhanaozen. The largest group gathered in Almaty: tens of thousands of people took part in a peaceful march on January 4. It was probably the largest peaceful gathering in the country's 30 years of independence. On the night of January 4-5, a violent suppression of the march began, followed by looters and “titushki” attacking civilians, police, commercial facilities, and municipal objects with the aim of bringing discredit on the peaceful protest.

On January 11, when the Internet connection was restored after the week of complete shutdown, we started publishing the stories of Adamdar/CA authors about the events of January 4-5.

On the evening of January 4, tens, hundreds, and then thousands of peaceful and unarmed people began to gather around the main square of my city. Many of them had no idea what was ahead of them, so the mood was festive as they walked. They laughed, rejoicing at the (seemingly long-lost) sense of solidarity. They sang folk songs and the national anthem of Kazakhstan. Some of them walked with children, some with elderly parents.

As people gathered in the square and the surrounding streets, the police and special security forces (SOBR) began throwing flashbangs and tear gas. Many were beaten and thrown into police wagons. But people, catching their breath, clearing their throats and crying from the gas, walked again and again in waves to the main square of Almaty, to the main square of Kazakhstan. Most of them were young men, but there were also women, teenagers, and pensioners. A sky-blue flag fluttered on the backs of many those marching.

I have never seen so many happy people together on the streets of my city as on the evening of January 4th.

I have never seen so many people on the streets of my city screaming from horror, pain, explosions, and rage, as on the night of January 4-5.

I have never seen so many ambulances. Almaty nurses and doctors who helped people during these dark hours have probably never received so many bloodied and injured people as on the night of January 4-5.

I have never seen so many people who, in spite of the horror of this monstrously long night, tried to help strangers in trouble or screaming in pain.

I saw how a stranger fell on Satpayev Street because a rubber bullet or flash grenade had hit him in the face. I saw how a ring of people immediately formed around the fallen man: they picked him up and carried him away from the explosions, the shots, the gas. One poured water on his face to wash off the blood, another applied a bandage.

I saw how a courier on a moped took a stranger away from the scene of the massacre. I saw other delivery people who were the real heroes of this night: on nimble and fast mopeds they brought water, took away the injured, and pointed out safe routes.

I saw people shouting to an old lady: “Ma’am , come away!”, she replied that she would not leave them (and she did not).

I saw people who, during these and subsequent hours, tried to stop the gangs of pogromists.

By the morning of January 5, the poisonous cloud of gas will begin to dissipate. The flashbang grenades will stop exploding. The cries of the injured will cease. My city, hoarse from screams and gas, will almost have time to catch its breath. There will be a brief silence. Only for few hours. Only a few minutes of silence. Then this silence will be broken once again by the screams and explosions of flashbang grenades. Then more and more shots will thunder. They will shoot from military weapons: rifles and automatic weapons will sound. Buildings burn. My defenseless, hoarse, injured city will be thrown to the mercy of marauders and murderers. The streets of my city, the houses of my city, the people of my city will never forget Bloody January 2022.

Republic Square in Almaty, January 5, 2022
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

The Adamdar/CA team expresses its deepest condolences to the families of victims of Qandy Qańtar.

We stand in solidarity with all citizens of Kazakhstan, with all human rights activists and independent journalists calling for an international investigation into the January 2022 events.


Published: January 11, 2022