Dictatorland Series 1: 1.Kazakhstan

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Dictatorland Series 1: 1.Kazakhstan4.5
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Series 1: 1.Kazakhstan
In this episode, Ben Zand travels to Kazakhstan to experience the sinister and at times bizarre side to living in a dictatorship.

Beginning his journey in the capital city Astana, he finds a wealthy country. In the Bayterek Tower - the national symbol of Kazakhstan - Ben places his hand in a golden handprint of the president, where he's told he can make a wish. But he also finds that he's being quietly accompanied by a minder to keep an eye on him.

Deciding to get out of town, Ben takes the overnight train across the country to Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty. It's Independence Day, celebrating 25 years since the end of Soviet rule, so Ben is keen to see some of the festivities.

But instead, because the government is nervous of protests, Ben is hurried out of town by the local mayor's office and forced to spend the day being shown around a nearby ski resort, where his minders provide him with fascinating facts on the size of the ski lift and the speed of the ice. It's a fun day out, but it isn't really what Ben had in mind. So to try and find out more about the other side of life here, Ben goes to a dissidents' gathering, where he meets Zhanbolat Mamay, who runs one of the few remaining independent newspapers in Kazakhstan.

Zhanbolat explains the fear that he lives in, and how journalists and politicians have reason to be scared for their lives. He recommends that Ben travels to the west of Kazakhstan, and a town called Zhanaozen, if he wants to get a real sense of the anti-government sentiment in the country.

Ben travels to Zhanaozen with a lawyer called Asel, who has spent years fighting for compensation for residents in Zhanaozen, many of whom lost friends and relatives, and many others of whom were injured, when the local police massacred 16 striking oil workers in 2011.

Asel takes Ben to meet two victims of the massacre. But as the sun sets, heavily armed police flock onto the streets - even five years after the massacre, the town is still more or less under curfew. When Ben gets back to his hotel, he's terrified to discover that the secret police are looking for him. It's a scary end to a journey in a country where the government still seems to have a lot to hide.

Presenter Ben Zand
Series Producer Olly Bootle
Executive Producer Mike Radford

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💬 Comments on the video
Author

The lady guide in the blue suit did not find your joke funny. Very interesting series, will more be produced?

Author — Chuck Hall

Author

Hello now our capital isn't Astana now capital of Kazakhstan is Nursultan 🤮

Author — АЙГЕРИМ КАМА

Author

Actually, it is not Astana anymore, it is Nursultan.

Author — LuckStroN

Author

economic stability? this woman is crazy !!!! People give birth to children, because the mentality of the Kazakhs to have many children. People live badly. All power and money belong to the family of Nazarbayev and his entourage.

Author — Neli Ahmat

Author

Kazakhstan is a dictatorship freedom for the world

Author — Roman Soiko

Author

did they make you pay for the expense /cost to the mountain trip because I'd be so upset because I dont have money and im always was on a tight budget . I'm so angry that that happened to you! because they ruined your plans .

Author — Sarah Cruz

Author

Almty is not the biggest, but the most populated. The biggest is Shymkent, bigger than Almaty almost twice.

Author — Siro Shickzhal

Author

The President of Kazakhstan steps down.

Author — Leaf47

Author

At least there not american puppets, like our politician when they make nation genocide they protecting own people

Author — Dragan Petreski

Author

Right I live in England but lived in Kazakhstan for 10 years and was born there, and I'm happy and also not happy about my ex leader. He improved our country and led it to great achievements. Expo 2017, the richest country in central Asia and much more. He was a dictator and nobody can deny that. He was a likeable leader and improved my country. I am not happy about him being a dictator and I find it terrible but he wasn't a bad leader. Our new president has blocked YouTube and Instagram and has got his police to arrest a man holding up a blank sign for "protesting". At least our country is well off and are happy.

Author — daniel Jones

Author

Nothing new in this report about Kazakhstan actually. I mean it is an autocracy, so what? Is it the only one? Economy is growing, people are living just fine. They have universal healthcare if they don’t have money, affordable one if they don’t want to wait, New schools are being built, students are being sent abroad to study, local universities are available for free. Freedom? Let’s not be naive, where it exists anyway? Toys that your government gave you, is that what you call freedom?

Author — Allazhar Duisenbek

Author

Stop making fake news! If the man is in the suit, it doesn't mean that he might be a spy. I don't like the way you exaggerate things

Author — Nazar Issayev