Kazakhstan Shuts Down Internet and Mobile Network to Prevent "Kazakh Spring"

In light of Arab Spring and keeping in mind the potential of online organizing, Kazakhstan's government has taken drastic measures to prevent a similar "Kazakh Spring." According to Tech Eye, president Nursultan Nazarbayev gave orders last week to disable the Internet in Zhanaozen, a city of 90,000 where 10 people died after civilians clashed with police in a demonstration. In attempts to quell any form of online organizing that may further add fuel to the protests, the Kazakh government preemptively shut down these channels of communication. Voice of America reports that Internet was restored to the city on Tuesday.

As a part of a long-term, six-month-long movement involving workers demanding better wages in the country's oil producing region, the protests reached a violent climax when Zhanaozen erupted in looting and burning beginning on Friday, with over 100 people wounded from the violence. Aktau, the other city with high numbers of people taking to the streets, has seen at least 14 dead, says The New York Times. Nazarbayev has vocalized his government's plans to track down the leaders of the protests, according to The Economist: "We will find out where the funding comes from and who is behind this."

Although the situation in Kazakhstan remains tense despite government efforts to stifle any unrest, some media pundits warn against sensationalizing the recent violence in comparison to Arab Spring's far-reaching global scale. Joshua Foust on The Atlantic writes that despite the public awareness Kazakh workers have stirred about their condition, geographic isolation and economic disparity will prevent the localized protests from becoming a full-fledged global uprising:

So, while we should keep an eye on Kazakhstan, we should also keep in mind what isn't happening. It's easy to fall into declaring the sky is falling every time something dramatic happens, but the reality is, sadly, far more boring.

The Internet and cell phone blackout is not the first time the country has experienced widespread web-related bans to service. Last June, WordPress was blocked in the country after the country's main ISP found two "illegal blogs" hosted by the platform. It was also in June when Google announced that it would redirect Kazakh users to the search engine's international site after the government announced all .kz domains had to be run on local servers within the country.