The government of Kazakhstan has confirmed that it has detained nearly 8,000 people as social protests against the government and out-of-control inflation continue to unfold across the country.

Kazakh authorities reported on Monday, Jan. 10, that police detained nearly 8,000 people during protests last week that in many cases escalated into violent clashes with local security forces, AP News reported.

News of the arrests comes after Kazakh officials confirmed that dozens of people had been killed in violent protests in the past 30 years since Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union.

While the official death toll published by the government is 164 people, some citizens have reported on various websites that the actual number is considerably higher.

According to the allegations, police forces have repeatedly implemented the “kill order” without prior warning. The international community and human rights organizations have strongly criticized the order.

Among the critics of this controversial measure is U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who stated in an official communiqué. “The shoot-to-kill order, to the extent it exists, is wrong and should be rescinded.

“Kazakhstan has the ability to maintain law and order, to defend the institutions of the state, but to do so in a way that respects the rights of peaceful protesters and also addresses the concerns that they’ve raised—economic concerns, some political concerns.”

Origin of the protests

The violent demonstrations in Kazakhstan followed a doubling of fuel prices, reflecting an out-of-control inflationary situation in the Central Asian country.

Security forces violently repressed the protests, which caused the protests to escalate.

According to reports, the main clashes took place when protesters tried to take over police stations from where security forces were gathered.

The president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, imposed a state of emergency throughout the country, including a curfew and a ban on mass gatherings.

He also dismissed the former president, Nursultan Nazarbayevy, who currently held a position in the security department, and made a large part of the presidential cabinet resign. 

Simultaneously, Tokayev accused foreign-trained “terrorist gangs” of instigating the protests.

In this context, the president asked for help from a Russian-dominated alliance of former Soviet states, the CSTO, whose chairman, Nikol Pashinyan, accepted and sent so-called “peacekeeping forces.”

The situation of the residents is extremely critical. Many of them declared to be afraid to go out in the streets, given the persistence of the shootings and the constant police controls.

The Internet is blocked, complicating the chaotic situation, so the people cannot carry out money transactions, and the few stores open are mostly out of stock.

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