Omarshanova, the 39-year-old investigative reporter for the Astana-based independent weekly Zakon i Pravosudiye (Law and Justice) was last seen in Kazakhstan’s financial capital, Almaty, where she was on a business trip with several colleagues. Her colleagues said they last saw her on the afternoon of March 30 getting into a jeep, the Moscow-based news agency Regnum reported. Omarshanova directed the paper’s anti-corruption department.
Four days before her disappearance, Omarshanova had published an article in Zakon i Pravosudiye about ethnic clashes between rival Chechen and Kazakh residents in the Almaty region villages of Kazatkom and Malovodnoye. The clashes, which took place on March 17 and 18, claimed at least five lives, according to local and international news reports. In her article, Omarshanova identified the instigators of the unrest and mentioned their alleged connection to the government and local businesses, the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz reported.
In February, the paper published an investigative report by Omarshanova that exposed the dangerous working conditions of miners in the central city of Zhezkazgan, according to international news reports.
At a press conference in Almaty on April 11, the journalist’s brother, Zhanat Omarshanov, told reporters that in the weeks prior to her disappearance, Omarshanova had received several death threats by telephone warning her to stop her reporting, Regnum reported.
During the press conference, Zakon i Pravosudiye reporterMukhit Iskakov said Omarshanova told him she had purchased a rifle to defend herself after receiving the threats, the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
On September 10, at a press conference organized by Adil Soz and the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan, Interior Ministry Lieutenant Colonel Baltabek Kuanyshev, who is in charge of the investigation, told journalists that Omarshanova’s disappearance seems not to be connected to her professional activities. Kuanyshev said Omarshanova may be alive but forcibly kept in captivity by criminals. He did not explain the substance behind these conclusions, though.
Oralgaisha Omarshanova is also known by her pen name, Oralgaisha Zhabagtaikyzy.