Shrinking space for civil society in Kazakhstan

Aina Shormanbayeva, human rights defender and lawyer, highlights the rising phenomenon of shrinking space in Kazakhstan – a theme she will explore during a fellowship with the Prague Civil Society Centre.

Like many other countries across the region, civil society in Kazakhstan is facing the ‘shrinking space’ phenomenon, where the activities of civic actors and groups are restricted and voices deemed to be in opposition, quietened.

Aina Shormanbayeva, a leading human rights defender and lawyer in Kazakhstan, will use a fellowship with the Prague Civil Society Centre, to explore the methods and tools which are being used in this crackdown. This includes both de facto and de jure restrictions on civic groups and civic initiatives.

Aina said: “The goal of the project is to analyse the mechanisms employed for shrinking civic space in Kazakhstan. I will describe the tools used against freedoms of speech, association, peaceful assembly and voluntary activities, as well as the replacement of independent civil society organisations by NGOs loyal to the government.

“I will also look at new laws and policies, as well as propaganda attacks and other tactics used to entrap civil society and deprive it of the right to exist. Furthermore, I will analyse the methods of power and pressure exerted on independent NGOs and activists, such as threats, bribery and provocation.”

Given the myriad and complex tools which are being used directly against civil society, Aina said the project “will also look for solutions for independent organisations and activists” to help pushback and preserve civil society in Kazakhstan.

About the author

Aina Shormanbayeva

International Legal Initiative & Prague Civil Society Fellow

Aina is a human rights defender and lawyer in Kazakhstan. She is president of the International Legal Initiative Public Foundation, which provides legal assistance to vulnerable groups including political prisoners, trafficking victims, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Aina also studies draft legislation and advises law enforcement agencies, judges and lawyers across Central Asia on human rights issues. She has written widely about law and order in Kazakhstan.