In Kazakhstan, the last decade has seen a dramatic emigration: nearly 2 million people, mainly Russian (approximately 28 per cent of the population) and other non-Kazak minorities, are believed to have left the country. Language legislation that privileges the Kazak language is increasingly perceived by non-Kazak minorities, especially those who are Russian-speaking, as discriminatory and exclusionary, and is often cited as one of the factors for this large-scale flow out of the country, in addition to better economic opportunities elsewhere. Though the Russian language is deemed 'equal' to Kazak under the Constitution, a programme of 'Kazakhization' initiated in 2001 is increasing the use of the Kazak language as the main language of government. Despite the Kazakhs only representing about 53 per cent of the population, territorial gerrymandering has assured Kazakh majorities in the country's political divisions. Minorities have in recent years claimed to experience difficulty in establishing organizations at the political level. In practice, the 1997 Law on Languages and subsequent regulations and legislation have set into motion policies which not only favour the Kazakh language, but also effectively discriminate against and exclude members of the Russian, Uighur and other minorities from various economic, political and employment opportunities, as well as breaching their rights as minorities in areas of language use. Reactions from countries with an interest in the region's minorities, and especially Russia, have been largely muted in 2004–5, because of strategic and economic interests (linked to its significant oil and gas resources, a large part of which transits via Russia).

The current Constitution prohibits the formation of associations or political parties that have ethnic, religious or nationalist identities. Some minorities are also specifically targeted in the fight against 'terrorism' and 'separatism'. A 1995 cooperation agreement with China included a clause about fighting separatism. Since then, some Uighur activists have been extradited to China and executed there. Some Uighur minority groups have claimed they face bureaucratic obstacles in their dealings with state authorities because of the stereotyping of Uighur activists as 'separatists'.

Religious minorities in 2004–5 have been generally free to operate, and are not subject to any state-sanctioned harassment, though there are occasional problems reported with some local authorities (US State Department, Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2004: Kazakhstan). However, in July 2005, President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed amendments entitled 'On additions and amendments to laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan relating to national security' which may substantially restrict freedom of religion in the country, especially for non-traditional religious minorities, making it compulsory to register all religious communities and banning the activities of all religious organizations that have not been registered. Some reports suggest that the new legislation could be used to ban all unregistered religious activity, affecting particular religious minorities such as Baptists, other Protestants, Ahmadiya Muslims, non-state-controlled Muslims and Hare Krishna devotees.

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