Pope Francis today prayed for Kazakhstan protest victims, commenting after praying the noonday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“I have learned with sorrow that there have been victims during the protests that have broken out in recent days in Kazakhstan,” the Holy Father said. “I pray for them and for their families, and I hope that social harmony will be restored as soon as possible through the search for dialogue, justice, and the common good. I entrust the Kazakh people to the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Peace of Oziornoje.”
The 2022 Kazakh protests began on January 2 after a sudden sharp increase in gas prices which, according to the Kazakh government, was due to high demand and price fixing. The protests began in the oil-producing city of Zhanaozen, but then quickly spread to other cities in the country, especially the nation’s largest city Almaty, due to rising dissatisfaction with the government and economic inequality.
Protests in Kazakhstan began in response to fuel hikes but grew to reflect discontent at the government and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country for three decades and is still thought to retain significant influence.
More than 150 people have died in clashes, according to the Interior Ministry, and more than 4,000 people detained.
As there are no popular opposition groups against the Kazakh government, the unrest appeared to be assembled directly by citizens. In response, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency in Mangystau Region and Almaty, effective from 5 January 2022. The state of emergency was shortly extended to the whole country.
On January 7, Tokayev announced that he had ordered troops to use deadly force against protesters, authorizing instructions to “shoot to kill” without warning at anyone demonstrating, calling protesters “bandits and terrorists” and saying that the use of force would continue to “destroy the protests”.