Kazakh Authorities Launch Some 90 Inquiries Into Deadly Ethnic Clashes

NUR-SULTAN — Kazakh authorities have launched about 90 investigations into the ethnic clashes in the southern region of Zhambyl that claimed 11 lives on February 7-8.

Deputy Interior Minister Marat Qozhaev told journalists in Nur-Sultan, on February 19, that hundreds of people had already been questioned in the investigations, which are expected to last for two months.

“Information about other suspects, including those who might have provoked the violence, will be made public later as investigations continue,” Qozhaev said.

Qozhaev also confirmed the Prosecutor-General’s earlier statement about the arrest of three brothers from an ethnic Dungan family who were charged with assaulting police after they scuffled with a group of Kazakhs following a road-rage incident.

Kazakh authorities said earlier that the road-rage brawl sparked wider violence between local Kazakhs and Kazakh citizens from the ethnic Dungan minority — a Muslim group of Chinese origin.

The deadly violence spread into the villages of Sortobe, Masanchi, Auqatty, and Bulan-Batyr.

Relatives of a 20-year-old man, Murat Masanov, who was visiting his relatives in one of the villages in the area on February 7, told RFE/RL on February 18 that he went missing after the clashes and his car was found destroyed by fire near the village of Masanchi.

More than 30 houses, 17 commercial buildings, and 47 vehicles were destroyed or damaged during the violence.

More than 23,000 people, mostly Dungans, fled villages where the violence erupted.

Many of them ended up in the Chui region of neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Kazakh officials say the majority of the displaced Dungans returned to Kazakhstan several days later.

Many senior regional officials, including the local police chief, were fired by Kazakhstan’s central government in the aftermath of the clashes.

Dungans, also known as Hui, are Sunni Muslims who speak a dialect of Mandarin that also uses words and phrases borrowed from Arabic, Persian, and Turkic.

Their ancestors fled from China to Central Asia, which then was part of the Russian empire, in the late-19th century after the Chinese government’s violent crackdown on the Dungan Revolt of 1862-1877.

The total number of Dungans now living in former Soviet republics is about 120,000.

Most reside in Kyrgyzstan’s northern region of Chui and Kazakhstan’s neighboring region of Zhambyl.

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