Following the Death of a KBTU student

On December 16, Kazakhstan celebrated the official anniversary of the Independence Day. However, many Kazakh citizens choose not to celebrate this holiday. To them, this date is the day of the national mourning for those killed and injured in 1986 in Almaty and in 2011 in Zhanaozen. 

Those whose relatives and loved ones have fallen victim to the authoritarian political regime and the «super-presidential» vertical do not celebrate it, either. We believe that, to the list of these victims, we can add Sergey Li, a student of the Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU) who committed suicide on December 5, 2021.

The death of the young man has been reported by a number of the Kazakh media-resources.  Mostly, they stress the fact that the suicide was related to Sergey’s failure to pass exams. 

For example, here is a quote from Azattyq Rýhy. «Information on the suicide has been released on the Qumash Telegram-channel. According to their data, the young man got a „retake“ and had to repeat two courses during the summer term».

Then the media usually say that the police department has confirmed the fact of suicide and that the police department of the Bostandyksky district in Almaty has begun a criminal investigation based on Article 105 of the Kazakh Criminal Code — «Incitement to Suicide».

And then they mandatorily quote the KBTU condolences note. 

«It is with great sadness that we have learned about the death of our student Sergey Li.

We express our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Sergey was an exceptionally lively and sincere person.

From its end, the university will provide all the help and support to the family of the deceased.

The police are now investigating the causes and circumstances of the tragedy».

On the face of it, there seems to be nothing political about the death of Sergey Li. However, it only seems this way. The thing is that Sergey is a victim of the political system that Nursultan Nazarbayev and his loyal elite have been building for the past thirty years.  

For, the Kazakh-British Technical University is an image-building project of Dinara Kulibayeva, the second daughter of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

You will recall that Dinara Kulibayeva (a Forbes-list dollar billionaire and the official wife of Timur Kulibayev, also a dollar billionaire) chairs The Nursultan Nazarbayev Foundation that is the KBTU sole shareholder.

The wife of Karim Masimov and Dinara Kulibayeva. Photo from KAZAWORD archives

 Due to this reason, we have no doubt that, in time, the criminal investigation will be closed.

What we can hope for at the most is that the prosecutors call to account individual professors since the talks that the university terrorises its students have been going on for quite some time and are sometimes even reflected in the press.

We cannot assess the activities of the KBTU, its professors, its courses and the quality of the education. It should be left to those well versed in such matters. However, we repeat that, from the political perspective, the KBTU is a product of the Kazakh authoritarian political system. This kind of education establishment could never appear in a democratic state.

Therefore, we are not surprised by the fact that, in this school, the students experience the same kind of attitude on the part of the professors as the ordinary Kazakh citizens do on the part of the Kazakh authorities. The name of the game is indifference and exploitation. 

We quite allow for the possibility that Sergey Li was unable to pass the exams because he had not mastered the material. However, in no way is it a reason to commit suicide. It looks like the young man had fallen into the trap that many of the KBTU students are familiar with.

The trap in question was set with the help of the state. For it is the state that provides the university with grants in a more than a generous manner.

According to our insiders, the number of the KBTU students educated on the state money surpasses 50% of the total number of the students of this school. They say that, in the IT-department, their share reaches up to 80%.

As a result of this combination of the interests of the state (led, de-facto, by Nursultan Nazarbayev) and the university (chaired, de-facto, by Dinara Kulibayeva), the state-paid students are the most vulnerable from the financial standpoint.

If they do not pass the exams, they are obligated to repeat them and retake the course — this time, at their own expense. With that, the IT students must receive 30 points out of the possible 69. If they fail to do so, they get a «retake».

According to our insiders, in the case of Sergey Li, the price of the human life constituted about 300 thousand tenge. This is how much he had to pay for the Re-Ex. However, it looks like the deceased was unable to find this kind of money and chose to take his own life.

By the way, according to the same insiders, in the aftermath of Sergey Li’s suicide, the KBTU administration has given a «pass» to all the other students with «retakes». By doing so, they probably wanted to silence the students and their families so that the latter would not relate to the investigators and reporters a lot of things that the university would prefer to keep in the closet.

We at believe that the KBTU (even though, from a purely technical standpoint, it did have the authority to act the way it did) has demonstrated that it is but a product of the Kazakh authoritarian political system and the «super-presidential» vertical and that it operates in the exact same manner as the authorities.

To confirm these words, let us recall the actions of the Kazakh authorities in the aftermath of the Zhanaozen incident of 2011 or the Shanyrak incident of 2006. It is when they begin solving the problems only after people have been killed and blood has been drawn.  


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