Eighteen months ago, I filed a FOIA request to obtain all communiques pertaining to the closure of the Peace Corps Kazakhstan operation in 2011. The other day, I finally got the batch of documents I'd been waiting for - and a few answers to questions, lingering for years:
Officially, the reasons for Peace Corps Kazakhstan’s closure centered around the country’s development. Shutting down Peace Corps operations, Kazakhstan’s education ministry said at the time, was a “logical step,” pointing to Kazakhstan’s economic and infrastructural expansion. The argument carried certain merits. While the country was hardly close to reaching the trilingual goals Astana had set forth — goals Peace Corps volunteers were there to help achieve — Kazakhstan was far more developed than its Central Asian counterparts.
But a series of new documents The Diplomat obtained via a FOIA request casts doubt on Astana’s justifications for the Peace Corps’ departure, and confirm a handful of the reasons that bounced among conversations between volunteers — of which I was one. While many of the 178 pages obtained are redacted, the series of emails and documents shed a bit more light on the program-wide difficulties the Peace Corps faced from recalcitrant Kazakhstani officials, as well as the on-the-ground violence volunteers experienced.