1.08.2006

Fuck Kazakhstan

One of my favorite shows is Da Ali G show. If you’re not familiar with it, basically it’s Sasha Baron Cohen playing characters, notably Ali G, a clueless British wannabe rapper, Bruno, a gay fashionista, and Borat, a guy from Kazakhstan who chronicles his travels in America. The schtick is that, posing as one of these characters, Cohen interviews various people, sometimes famous, who have no idea it’s all a big joke. As Borat, he has managed to get a country bar to sing his song “Throw The Jew Down the Well” , and usually he mocks Kazakhstan by saying things like “In Kazakhstan we have many hobbies: disco dancing, archery, rape and table tennis…” and “In America, women can vote but horse cannot! It is the other way around in my country.”

Well, the country of Kazakhstan doesn’t think Borat is all that funny, and have threatened to sue.
In November 2005, following Borat’s hosting of the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry voiced their concerns about the character. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told a news conference “We view Mr. Cohen’s behaviour at the MTV Europe Music Awards as utterly unacceptable, being a concoction of bad taste and ill manners which is completely incompatible with ethics and civilised behaviour”, concluding “We reserve the right to any legal action to prevent new pranks of the kind”.
They have also pulled the plug on Borat’s website, which used a .kz domain. At first I thought, "whoa, that's an overreaction", but as I though more I realized it is probably hard for a country as unknown as Kazakhstan to be mocked. It feeds into Western stereotypes, something I always hate. So while I think Borat is hilarious, I can also understand where the government is coming from.

Then I read some news on the “ethics and civilized behavior” of the Kazakh government.
The mysterious death over the weekend of an outspoken critic of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has prompted calls for an independent investigation, less than a month before the country’s upcoming presidential elections…

On Saturday, Zaman Nurkadilov, 61, a former Almaty mayor and government minister, was found shot dead three times in his home in what police have ruled as an alleged suicide.

“He had three bullets in him. Two in the left part of his chest or heart and one in his head – all of which went through,” Petr Svoik, deputy head of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan opposition party said from Almaty. “I’m not a forensic expert, but this seems hardly like a suicide.”

Others were more direct, however. “Knowing Nurkadilov’s political position and his forthright manner to express his views, we cannot exclude that his murder was politically motivated,” the BBC quoted opposition leader Gulzhan Yergaliyeva as saying.

Nurkadilov had launched a public campaign against Nazarbayev, accusing him of authoritarianism and calling on him to step down. Working to establish a commission to investigate alleged corruption by Nazarbayev, in an interview with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWFPR) in April 2004, it was clear what drove him. “I will seek the president’s resignation and the announcement of a new presidential election,” he told the London-based group. Moreover, the former emergency situations minister claimed he had documents showing bribery and corruption involving the president.

Earlier this year, however, Nurkadilov, who had compared Nazarbayev to Romania’s ousted dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was convicted of slandering the Kazakh leader after alleging he was responsible for the July 2004 death of an opposition journalist.
Maybe the Kazakh people don’t deserve be mocked, but their corrupt government sure as hell does. If Borat makes them uncomfortable and shines light on their corruption, that's fine by me.
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