A suicide bomber blew himself up (himself? because women are never suicide bombers?) at the Aktobe headquarters of the National Security Committee, Kazakhstan’s domestic security police. That’s upsetting as it is, but in the piece describing the bare outlines of what happened, Reuters adds a completely unnecessary paragraph:
Oil-rich, mainly Muslim Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest economy, has to date avoided outbreaks of violence that have occurred in ex-Soviet neighbors Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
I get the need to add context about which country one is writing about, espeically in a wire where there is an assumption that normal people reading it might need some background information. But if an editor feels a need to do that, she should at least adhere to some basic level of honesty. Kazakhstan is indeed oil-rich, and most people in it are Muslim, but describing it in that way is drawing a direct comparison to Saudi Arabia. When I worked in Kazakhstan as an teacher, one of my Muslim students explained to me that she didn’t eat pork—not because it was unIslamic, but because she just didn’t care for the taste.
Kazakhstan’s status as a Muslim country has nothing to do with its oil wealth or the relative size of its economy (the latter has far more to do with Uzbekistan’s deliberately-imposed economic dysfunction than anything else). Similarly, to pretend Kazakhstan has experience no ethnic or political violence is to deceive—there have been riots targeting ethnic minorities in Almaty, and there has been a campaign of intimidation against political dissidents.
Things in Kazakhstan are definitely not as bad as in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or Kyrgyzstan. In fact, it is an alright place to live, and probably the best place to live in the region. But Reuters’ attempt to add “context” actually misleads readers about the country, its recent experiences, and its probably future. Just that one paragraph—a single sentence, really—undoes an otherwise perfectly fine story.