EL*C Co-Chair of the Board Fined for Allegedly Organizing Unauthorized Protest Against Politician’s Femicide in Kazakhstan

Gulzada Serzhan, co-chair of the board at EL*C, has been fined by Kazakh Police for allegedly organizing an unauthorized protest. Serzhan, along with two other activists, was detained the day after participating in an impromptu public action held in response to the murder trial of former Kazakh Minister of Economy, Kuandyk Bishimbayev. The protest aimed to call for harsher punishment for Bishimbayev and raise awareness about femicide in Kazakhstan. Despite the lack of evidence, the Police fined Serzhan for organizing the protest. The official police report also highlighted her identity as an LGBT activist, even though the protest was focused on feminist issues. 

During the trial, Serzhan testified that she only participated in the action and did not organize it. Despite this, the authorities dismissed her testimony, using photographic and video evidence of her participation to indict her. There is no evidence that Serzhan organized the protest against Bishimbayev’s femicide. 

This authoritarian response is part of a longstanding pattern of repressing the right to freedom of assembly for lesbians and feminists in Kazakhstan. Serzhan is a member of the feminist organizational committee on peaceful meetings, Ogash, and co-founder of the lesbian and feminist collective, Feminita. In 2024 alone, Feminita activists have been denied permission for a feminist demonstration on March 8th in Almaty twenty times. Many of these refusals were justified by the authorities as preventing the spread of “LGBT propaganda,” despite the absence of any such legislation in Kazakhstan.   

In addition to Serzhan, two other activists were detained, with one also receiving a fine. Serzhan is currently appealing the court’s decision, and funds are needed for the legal proceedings. EL*C will cover the urgent funds necessary for Serzhan’s case and the fine of the other activist. 

Feminita, co-founded by Serzhan, has faced continuous rejection in their efforts to register legally in Kazakhstan. Over the past seven years, they have been denied authorization for their March 8th feminist demonstration by local authorities. Limited funding for unregistered collectives has made it challenging to seek justice against authoritarian actions that impede freedom of assembly for feminists and lesbians in Kazakhstan. 

Feminita has launched a fundraiser to cover expenses for strategic cases on freedom of assembly, aiming to secure human rights and safety for women and the LGBTI+ community in Kazakhstan.  

Feminist activists in Kazakhstan, such as Gulzada Serzhan, play a crucial role in advocating for LGBTQI+ rights and raising awareness about prevalent feminist issues such as gender-based violence and femicide. Despite facing significant legal and societal challenges, these activists continue to fight for justice and equality. Their efforts often result in harsh repercussions, including fines, and repression by authorities. Yet, their unwavering commitment underscores the importance of international support and solidarity. By standing with these activists, we not only amplify their voices but also contribute to the broader fight for human rights and dignity in regions where such freedoms are under constant threat. 

Please consider donating to support the lesbian feminists in Kazakhstan through Feminita’s PayPal: paypal.me/gulzadaserzhan 

Kazakh feminists leaving Police department the day before the trial.  


Context on situation in Kazakhstan: 

In November 2023, Saltanat Nukenova died of a brain injury just hours after a brutal beating by Kuandyk Bishimbayev in a restaurant in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital. According to DW, the restaurant staff was forbidden to call emergency services and was instructed to delete the CCTV footage under the pretext of a technical failure. Bishimbayev’s ensuing murder trial was broadcast live online and on TV. On May 13, 2024, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison, a punishment that feminist activists in Kazakhstan deem insufficient. 

Femicide rates in Kazakhstan are alarmingly high, with the UN estimating that 400 women die from domestic violence each year. In 2017, Kazakhstan decriminalized acts of violence causing “minor” physical harm. However, in April 2024, the President signed a new law toughening penalties for spousal abuse. This law has been dubbed “Saltanat’s Law.” 

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