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2005-08-04 01:47:00
US Office Almaty
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						UNCLAS  ALMATY 002838 




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: In an initiative to mobilize apathetic
youth in Kazakhstan, a new non-partisan youth movement,
called Kahar [Protest], emerged last winter. Drawing
inspiration, if not the numbers, from influential youth
groups like Otpor and Pora, Kahar could attract more young
people, especially students, to political activism ahead of
the widely-expected December presidential elections. That
said, the organization remains low-key, informal, and
unregistered. It may face significant obstacles given the
recently-enacted national security legislation and the
restrictive NGO laws currently with the Constitutional
Council. End summary


Young People of Kazakhstan Unite


2. (SBU) On July 26, POEC Intern and Public Affairs FSN met
with the director of the Kahar [Protest] youth movement
Bakhtzhan Toregozhina, and several young volunteers, in
their Almaty headquarters. Toregozhina discussed the origins
of Kahar, the organization's structure, the need for student
participation in the political process, and activities
planned in run-up to widely-expected December presidential
elections. The unregistered group began organizing
activities this winter, operating unofficially from a dingy
three-room basement office with two old computers and a
photocopy machine. According to an Embassy contact, Kahar is
technically illegal and must operate underground since it
has not had a founding congress or registered with the MOJ.
Toregozhina is an opposition political activist with ties to
former PM Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who now resides in London.
Before Kahar, Toregozhina ran an NGO called "Ar.Rukh.Khak,"
which organized pickets and seminars devoted to free speech
and women's rights.

3. (SBU) Since Kahar started operating this winter, it has
organized several street demonstrations, conducted voter
education campaigns, and made public appeals to students and
young activists. Initially reluctant to discuss funding,
Toregozhina eventually acknowledged in private that she had
at one time received financial support from Kazhegeldin.
Beaming at a portrait of Kazhegeldin which hangs in her
office, she claimed that if he were in Kazakhstan he would
be president today.


A New Shade of Orange?


4. (SBU) Due to its meager financial means, Kahar has few
concrete plans for the time being, except for protests and
voter information initiatives. It has, however, established
a brand for itself. Kahar's symbol, printed on stickers and

t-shirts, is a falcon perched on top of a shield, with a
lemon-yellow background. The color yellow was a good choice,
they said, since it is eye-catching and a reminder of the
Kazakhstani flag. Toregozhina claimed Kahar had around 98
active members, but with up to one thousand attending
demonstrations and other events.

5. (SBU) The volunteers said that Kahar has representation
in other areas of the country, including Petropavlovsk and
Shymkent. Because it lacks financial backing, however,
Kahar's reach is limited and its core constituency is based
in Almaty. Toregozhina explained that it is not easy to
mobilize supporters, since access to university premises is
restricted. In fact, she said she would be arrested if she
attempted anything of the sort. Kahar has been most
successful in recruiting volunteers through its website. The
website is well-constructed, regularly updated, and includes
articles and editorials written by Kahar members, media
coverage about the organization, and a litany of hip
slogans, songs, and some cartoons. It also provides links to
Pora (Ukraine) and a few fledging youth groups, such as Zubr
(Belarus) and Kel-Kel (Kyrgyzstan).


A Protest Group, but Not the Opposition


6. (SBU) Toregozhina noted with great concern last fall's
flawed parliamentary elections. She believes that students

were coerced into voting for incumbent leaders. In
preparation for presidential elections, Kahar will try to
conduct voter education and information campaigns. Last
week, dressed in their signature yellow and black t-shirts,
Kahar activists attended as observers the July 22-23
founding party congress of Alga-DCK [now simply "Alga"], a
spin-off of Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan. When asked
about support for such opposition forces, however,
Toregozhina insisted that Kahar is an independent, non-
partisan youth movement. (Comment: Based on interviews from
the website and on her comments during the meeting,
Toregozhina does not hide her close contacts with other
liberal youth movements, such as Ukraine's Pora and Otpor in
Serbia. In a Deutsche Welle interview in June, she said that
Pora was the ideal to which Kahar should strive for
mobilizing young people to politics. End comment).

7. (SBU) Toregozhina, along with another Kahar member, was
in Ukraine during the "orange" revolution. She proudly
showed us numerous photographs of the event, which were
posted all over the walls of the office. A Pora leader
reportedly paid a visit recently to Toreghozhina, offering
training and instructions on conducting youth movement
activities. In late June, Toreghozhina was invited to Berlin
by a German-based Central Asian democracy support group.

8. (SBU) Kahar has attracted some press coverage, especially
by opposition media outlets. Using similar tactics employed
by the youth movement Zubr in Belarus, Kahar has conducted
humorous but confrontational stunts in public, in part to
arouse in interest in the group, but also to agitate
authorities and attract publicity. In early July, Kahar
activists marched on Gogol Street with white stickers taped
to their mouths saying "We want to speak." During a weekend
rock concert in mid-July, several Kahar activists were
arrested for distributing leaflets containing Kahar's
contact information and some provocative lyrics by
Kazakhstani rock legend Viktor Tsoi. In another incident,
Kahar members distributed lemons to people, symbolizing
grenades. Four more actions are planned over the next few
months, Toregozhina said.

9. (SBU) Comment: Despite its small size, Kahar could
attract close attention by the Kazakhstani authorities,
fearful of any hint of a "colored revolution" as elections
approach. With its web-links to Pora and publicized contacts
with other youth movements, this unregistered, group has
taken a provocative stance. Recent national security
legislation provides the GOK with a range of legal tools to
act against the group, should it chose to do so. End

10. (U) Dushanbe minimize considered.