An ethnically motivated attack alarms multi-ethnic Kazakhstan

Feb 13, 2020

IN A BUCOLIC setting, fringed by the snow-cloaked mountains of south-eastern Kazakhstan, lie two adjoining villages separated by a field of bleating fat-tailed sheep. This week the ethnic Kazakhs of Qarakemer were going about their business as usual, a man trotting down the main street on a horse, children lugging milk home in pails. Their neighbours in Masanchi, a ten-minute walk away, were contemplating a scene of devastation. A distraught villager whose shop had been torched in a mob attack over the weekend gestured at two intact businesses among the charred ruins lining the main street. “Look at that shop, and that one,” he said. “Their owners are Kazakh. They didn’t touch them. Only the Dungans’ shops.”

On the night of February 7th Kazakhs armed with hunting rifles, iron bars, sticks and stones went on the rampage in Masanchi and nearby villages inhabited by Dungans—Muslims of Chinese descent, who have lived in Kazakhstan for centuries but number just 72,000, or 0.4% of the population. The spark for the violence seems to have been a row between drivers about who had the right of way. A rumour spread that Dungans had attacked an old Kazakh man. The attackers beat and shot Dungan villagers and set fire to homes and businesses. Ten people—nine Dungans, one Kazakh—were killed; 178 were wounded, including 19 police officers. Some 24,...

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