INTERVIEW: Recent unrest in Kazakhstan was ‘an assault on our statehood,’ says envoy

Berik Aryn, Ambassador of Kazakhstan. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanam)
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Berik Aryn, Ambassador of Kazakhstan. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanam)
INTERVIEW: Recent unrest in Kazakhstan was ‘an assault on our statehood,’ says envoy
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Berik Aryn, Ambassador of Kazakhstan. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanam)
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Updated 16 January 2022

INTERVIEW: Recent unrest in Kazakhstan was ‘an assault on our statehood,’ says envoy

Berik Aryn, Ambassador of Kazakhstan. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanam)
  • ‘We received letters from Saudi friends supporting the people of Kazakhstan at this challenging time,” the country’s ambassador to KSA said in an exclusive interview

RIYADH: Kazakhstan has experienced a period of unprecedented violence and unrest that had a dramatic effect on the population and threatened to undermine the constitutional order, according to Berik Aryn, the country’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. It “is considered as an assault on our statehood,” he said, but added that the situation is now under control.

“The situation in all regions of the country has stabilized and people are returning to normal life,” Aryn said during an exclusive interview with Arab News. “Law enforcement forces have released all previously seized government facilities. The main task today is the defense of our country and its citizens.”

The unrest this month in the country is the worst it has seen in the 30 years since it gained independence.

“On Jan. 2, 2022, peaceful demonstrations started in western regions of Kazakhstan, triggered by a spike in the price of liquefied petroleum gas,” Aryn said.

“Addressing public grievances over the inflation, and social and economic problems, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has decided to control petroleum prices and essential products and services. At the same time, the president urged people not to succumb to internal and external provocations.”




Berik Aryn, Ambassador of Kazakhstan. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanam)

Despite these efforts the protests escalated into violence across the country, he said, including riots, attacks against administrative buildings, military bases and civil facilities, and the seizure of Almaty airport and local and foreign airplanes.

“Regretfully, peaceful demonstrations in Almaty and some other regions were hijacked by perpetrators and both local and foreign terrorist groups,” Aryn said. “Their criminal activities caused riots, looting and mass violence.

“No protest or demonstration in a democratic society can justify attacks and killings of law enforcement officers. These terrorist gangs are fundamentally international, having received severe training abroad, and their attacks should be considered as an act of aggression.”

Saudi Arabia is one of our essential partners in the Middle East. Our countries have built up a trusting political dialogue at a high level, established cultural and humanitarian ties, and are developing trade, economic and investment cooperation.

Berik Aryn, Kazakhstan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

According to preliminary data, 225 people died during the riots. Some of them are armed bandits who participated in terrorist attacks. Among the dead were 19 police and military personnel. Unfortunately, civilians also became victims of acts of terrorism. 4,578 people were injured, 3,393 of them were law enforcement officers.

Authorities are investigating crimes committed during the unrest and a number of people have been arrested, Aryn said, and among the detainees are foreign citizens whose identities are being established.

The envoy said that destructive forces had tried to take advantage of the situation to destabilize the country. They set fire to and tried to destroy administrative buildings, police stations, hospitals and other social facilities, he added.

Armed with military weapons and equipment, they attempted to seize control of strategic facilities in the south of the country such as Almaty airport, the National Security Committee building in Almaty, the offices of TV stations, and other important facilities, Aryn said.

“In doing so, they killed and used force against civilians,” he added. “They cannot be called insurgents since their actions are considered terrorist and extremist acts. Indeed, the investigation and the court will determine the degree of guilt of each detainee and the innocents will be released. Call centers were opened throughout Kazakhstan to provide legal assistance to citizens affected by the terrorist attack.

“Kazakhstan will continue to ensure the rights and interests of all representatives of our multiethnic and multireligious people and the safety of foreign citizens in the country, including the diplomatic corps and journalists. The government guarantees the protection of foreign investment and foreign companies’ business.”

The attempted coup d’etat and the efforts to damage the country’s integrity failed because the vast majority of Kazakhstan’s people displayed patriotism and unity in the fight against the extremists during the tragic events, the envoy said.

On Jan. 11, the president addressed parliament and outlined the priorities for building a bright future for Kazakhstan, which included enhancing people’s welfare, reforming the political, social, economic and law enforcement systems, and strengthening national security, according to Aryn.

He also introduced the new prime minister, Alikhan Smailov, who assumed office on Jan. 5. Smailov said that his government will endeavor to fulfill the tasks set by the President to improve the quality of life of the people of Kazakhstan.

Responding to the support for stability that his country has received from the international community, Aryn said: “The president addressed the heads of state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization to provide military assistance for the counterterrorist operation.”

The CSTO is an intergovernmental military alliance in Eurasia that consists of select post-Soviet states. Aryn said that during a speech in Parliament, President Tokayev announced that CSTO peacekeepers sent to assist efforts to restore order had completed their mission, and on Jan. 14 they started a gradual withdrawal from the country.

“Many countries and leaders of the world community supported the people of Kazakhstan and President Tokayev,” Aryn added. “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation member states and Arab leaders were among the first to condemn the terrorist acts in Kazakhstan and express their support.

“On Jan. 13, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, during a telephone conversation with Mukhtar Tileuberdi, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan, expressed support and solidarity of the government of Saudi Arabia to the people of Kazakhstan.

“We received a massive number of letters from our Saudi friends, who decided to support the people of Kazakhstan at this challenging time, and we express our gratitude for this support.”

Arynb said that Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia have close ties and their humanitarian cooperation includes active collaboration through the work of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).

In 2017, financial assistance from the Kingdom worth $7 million helped fund construction of a regional tuberculosis clinic in Semeyr with 80 beds. Earlier, a medical center for mothers and children in Nur-Sultan received equipment worth more $3.5 million.

“Saudi Arabia is one of our essential partners in the Middle East,” Aryn said. “Our countries have built up a trusting political dialogue at a high level, established cultural and humanitarian ties, and are developing trade, economic and investment cooperation.

“We attach great importance to further comprehensive development and expansion of bilateral relations.”

In December 1991, Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence, Aryn said, and diplomatic relations were established in 1994. In the years since then, the relationship has developed rapidly.


Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia

Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia
Updated 18 May 2022

Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia

Kahila horse championship to kick off May 25 in Saudi Arabia
  • The event will highlight the significance of the ancient sport and the Kingdom’s efforts to advance it through local and international forums

RIYADH: An international event to celebrate the history of purebred Arabian horses is set to get underway in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Equestrian Authority and the Horse Racing Club, will on May 25 patronize the launch of the second edition of the five day Kahila championship meeting.

Organized by the King Abdulaziz center for purebred Arabian horses, the event will be staged at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Convention Center and will highlight the significance of the ancient sport and the Kingdom’s efforts to advance it through local and international forums.


73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls

73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls
Updated 18 May 2022

73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls

73 held after Saudi patrols intercept illicit drug hauls
  • The authorities thwarted attempts to smuggle 682 kilograms of hashish, 62.3 tons of khat and 194,300 amphetamine tablets

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 73 people after border patrols foiled massive drug smuggling attempts in several regions of the Kingdom.

Col. Misfir Al-Qarini, spokesman for the General Directorate of Border Guard, said that land patrols in the Jazan, Najran, Asir and Tabuk regions thwarted attempts to smuggle 682 kilograms of hashish, 62.3 tons of khat and 194,300 amphetamine tablets.

The seized drugs were handed over to authorities and legal steps taken against those detained, he added.

Among the alleged violators were 20 Saudi citizens, 26 Ethiopians, 23 Yemenis, two Pakistanis, one Sudanese and one Eritrean. 


Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight

Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight
Updated 18 May 2022

Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight

Taif Rose Festival is an intense visual and olfactory delight
  • The festival has 13 sections featuring 50 live performances and folkloric dances from across the Kingdom

 

JEDDAH: At this time every year the mountainous city of Taif is adorned with the hues of bright pink roses that produce some of the world’s most alluring perfumes and oils.

The Taif Rose Festival is the modern iteration of a tradition of cultivation and harvesting that has taken place in this region over the past nine centuries.

It was launched on May 6 at Al-Rudaf Park in the southern part of the city, and is open from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight.

The Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with Taif Municipality and under the patronage of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, have organized the festival for two years in a row.

However, it has been running for the past 17 years, Arab News was told by Ahmad Al-Joaid, a tour guide from Taif who has been operating for 15 years in the field.

Al-Joaid said: “A number of new activities are added to the festival every year. Al-Rudaf Park is an area of over half-a-million square meters … a theater has also been created for the festival … Concerts (are) also a new addition.”

The ministry tweeted on its account @MoC_Engage: “Between the beauty of roses and the creativity of art, we welcome you to Taif roses festival.”

The festival has 13 sections featuring 50 live performances and folkloric dances from across the Kingdom in the park, and music shows by male and female artists.

The organizers have set up a workshop aimed at young people that provides information on how to become involved in the perfume-making industry.

There is also an exhibition titled “Claude Monet,” named after the French painter and founder of impressionism, who portrayed nature with such startling creativity. Several of Monet’s renditions are on display.

The festival also provides an opportunity for aspiring Saudi artists to display their paintings at “Cultural Street,” and drawings and other artwork at “Drawing Exhibit.” 

Many families have set up booths to sell byproducts of Taif’s produce such as rose water, perfumes, deodorants, soaps, body and skincare products, food and sweets.

The festival is also a great place for social media enthusiasts because it has several picturesque backdrops for photographs such as the Rose Dome, which contains a giant painting made of natural roses, the largest basket of the flowers in the city, and models and gates decorated with the produce.

Visitors can also view and listen to various rare birds.

Taif roses have historic, economic and religious importance. The oil is used to perfume the walls of the Kaaba, which is also washed twice annually with its scented water.

The region has more than 2,000 flower farms producing over 200 million roses every season.

Residents of Makkah and Jeddah visit Taif regularly in summer. “People can do plenty of things in Taif in addition to visiting the festival during their one-day visit …  (including) museums, local markets, rose factories in Al-Shafa and Al-Hada, the cable car, strawberry farm, zoo, and historical castles,” the tour guide said.


Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva
Updated 56 min 31 sec ago

Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Majed Al-Sulami is a diplomat at the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, where he is head of the humanitarian and development affairs department in Geneva.

His responsibilities are in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, International Committee of the Red Cross, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and humanitarian assistance in areas affected by conflicts, armed disputes and natural disasters.

Al-Sulami attained his bachelor’s degree in English literature from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. He also received a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy affairs from the University of Ghana, and another master’s degree in business administration for executives from Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK.

Al-Sulami also served as the chargé d’affaires at the Saudi Embassy in Ghana, and the deputy head and head of the consular section between September 2011 and 2013.

He was also the deputy head of the media section at the Saudi Embassy in London between September 2013 and 2017.

Al-Sulami also served as director of the specialized meetings at the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation between September 2017 and 2020.

His participation included the 47th and 48th sessions of the OIC’s permanent finance committee, the 13th and 14th sessions of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission and the workshop held by the OIC’s commission with the UN.

Al-Sulami was a political committee member for preparatory meetings and foreign ministers’ meetings and the OIC conference held in Makkah in 2019.


Visitors to Kaaba Kiswa complex, Grand Mosque library can rate satisfaction using QR codes

Visitors to Kaaba Kiswa complex, Grand Mosque library can rate satisfaction using QR codes
Updated 18 May 2022

Visitors to Kaaba Kiswa complex, Grand Mosque library can rate satisfaction using QR codes

Visitors to Kaaba Kiswa complex, Grand Mosque library can rate satisfaction using QR codes
  • Visitors can rate their experiences in six languages
  • The satisfaction ratings will help improve visitors’ experiences

RIYADH: Visitors to institutions affiliated with the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques can now rate their satisfaction using QR code panels.

People visiting the King Abdulaziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa and the Grand Mosque’s library can simply scan the QR codes displayed to rate their visitor experience.

Panels with QR codes on them will enable visitors to rate their experiences. (@ReasahAlharmain)

The QR code panels at the complex and library will help rate visitor experiences in six languages through a special website supervised by an agency at the presidency measuring performance, quality, and institutional excellence.

The satisfaction ratings will help improve visitors’ experiences.