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Human rights in Kazakhstan: Nibbled apples only

MAASTRICHT - 30 June 2014

Activists have travelled six and half thousand kilometres in order to draw attention to the devastation being perpetrated in the unique nature of the Almaty Mountains.

Hundreds of nibbled apples symbolize the disdain being shown to the citizens of Kazakhstan, as well as how their right to participate in the decision-making is being neglected. That is the motif of a performance by non-governmental organizations being staged for conference delegates from the signatory states of the Aarhus Convention. Their intention is to show that, in reality, the implementation of international obligations is lacking considerably despite the image presented in official reports and official statements. This threatens natural treasures such as Ile-Alatau National Park (Almaty, southern Kazakhstan), the habitat of the endangered snow leopard, as well as the indigenous ecosystem of all contemporarily grown apple varieties.

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“The intention of the authorities is to fence in and build over the popular natural site known as Kok Jailau – Green Pastures. They want to use public resources in order to build a luxurious ski resort in a mountain area, which is currently accessible to the public and serves as one of the few places the one-million citizens of the nearby metropolis can play sports, relax and enjoy their leisure time. We find it terrifying that the natural ecosystem of the valley might be destroyed due to a decision made by the local municipality,“ explains Sergei Kuratov, Chairperson of the non-government organization Green Salvation.

“Even though 10 thousand people have already signed a petition to save the mountains, we still do not have enough information about the project, and public opinion is being ignored by the authorities. That is why we had come to show the delegates of the 5th Meeting of Parties to the Aarhus Convention that our country is lagging considerably behind in carrying out its international obligations. It is necessary to establish mechanisms that are more effective in asserting the rights of the citizens who are protecting their environment,” adds Kuratov.

In addition, members of the non-government organization Arnika, from the Czech Republic, have come to Maastricht to support the Kazakhstan citizens. “From the European perspective, civil society in Kazakhstan is more passive and less emancipated. The massive protests against environmental destruction and human rights violations accompanying the ski resort project is completely unique to Kazakhstan. That is why it deserves our attention. The fight for the Almaty Mountains is a chance to advance the local society towards wider transparency and justice,” says Martin Skalský, the head of Arnika’s Citizens’ Support Centre. 

“In the past we had a bad experience with the development of a similar ski resort. There have already been several cases of environmental destruction and mountains being fenced off from the public. Meanwhile, untouched nature is what foreign tourists come here for. In order to protect the mountains, we ask for the support of other states’ citizens who are not indifferent to our situation,” explains Sergei Solyanik, one of the performance participants, who has travelled thousands of kilometers to be heard at the international conference in Maastricht.

People can express their support for the civic campaign to save the mountains in southern Kazakhstan by signing the petition.

The campaign is supported by German NABU (Naturschutzbund), one of the biggest nature protection organisations in the World.

Notes for editors:

1/ More information about Aarhus Convention

2/ Kok Jailau: endangered beauty

3/ More information on 5th Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Maastricht

Information on events organized by NGOs within Maastricht conference regarding situation in Kazakhstan