After she took pictures of her husband’s arrest, which Bitter Winter published, Bakyt Zharykbassova was also detained and mistreated by the police.
by Laila Adilzhan
Bakyt Zharykbassova is the wife of Baibolat Kunbolat, a Kazakh human rights activist and a protester against the horrors vested on ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang. Bakyt was attacked by plainclothes policemen at about 8:30 pm, on July 1, 2021. When Bakyt was seeing off his husband, who was going to visit his parents that day, some unfamiliar men followed Baibolat. As Bitter Winter was later told, the activist suspected that something bad may happen to him and called his wife, Bakyt.
She opened the video recorder on her phone and started to record Baibolat’s encounter with the police (that I mentioned in a previous Bitter Winter article), and shouted at the men to let him free. But they did not let him go. One man from the neighborhood watching the fight between the suspicious men and Baibolat put his car in front of those men to help the activist. Eyewitnesses of the ongoing lawlessness tried to stop the attackers with different words and actions. But the plainclothes policemen drove Baibolat Kunbolat away, without telling the address where he would be taken.
After that, some twelve men participated in the operation, and arrested both Baibolat and his wife Bakyt. Among the people in the yard there was Bakyt’s 13-year-old niece, who was taking pictures and videos of the incident.
After they had taken Baibolat away, two of those men twisted Bakyt’s arms and forcibly led her to the car. One of them continuously kicked her in the thigh and below thigh, which left bruises on her forearms, buttocks, and legs. She tried to fight off her husband from the police, but she was not successful. Since the people in the yard intervened, she managed to escape from their hands and run home.
Both Bakyt and her niece ran back home and managed to send pictures and videos to activists’ group chat in WhatsApp, asking for help. Then two men without a uniform, named Kapar and Darkhan, came to her door and rang and knocked on her door for about one hour. Bakyt did not open the door since she wanted first to download the videos she had taken and send them to several people. When she opened the door, the men asked her not to take any videos and to switch her phone off.
They promised to let Baibolat go if she deleted all videos from Facebook and WhatsApp. She refused to obey. They asked her to go to the police station and promised that Baibolat would be free in an hour. Bakyt believed them, and said that she would take her niece with her because she was afraid of going alone with them. The plainclothes police agreed.
Thus, Bakyt fell into the trap, and she ended up being arrested like her husband and driven to the police station together with her 13-year-old niece. On the way to the police station, they snatched the phone of the 13-year-old girl out of her hand, hurting her hand in the process, and she was scared a lot.
For the whole day, there was no information about their location. Baibolat, his wife and her niece, and Baibolat’s mother who had also been arrested, were set free in the late evening of July 1, 2021. All of them had been taken to the Department police station separately.
After being released, Bakyt called Guljan Toktassyn (a member of the independent volunteer human rights organization Nagyz Atajurt), and asked her to come to her place, since she felt depressed. When Guljan came to her place, Bakyt told her what happened to her in the police station. Bakyt was beaten by a police officers named Maulen, who strangled her with his large hands and told her, “Shout now if you can!” humiliating the woman with vulgar words. While officer Maulen insulted Bakyt, Darkhan and Kapar were watching and grinning. The stress and beating caused her to bleed, and she demanded to bring her underwear and panty liners for the critical days.
The teenager girl was kept in another room. After a while, another officer came there who was of senior rank (Bakyt noticed that everyone saluted him). Since Bakyt was in anger and despair, she shouted at him, claiming there was no justice, but he only laughed in response and told her to calm down. He ordered to bring her what she demanded. Bakyt was hungry, because she had not had breakfast in the morning, and asked several times to bring her something to eat and drink. She had bruises and abrasions on her forearms, throat, thighs and below the buttocks. The prisoners were kept in Nauryzbay district police department, in Almaty city.
That night at 1:16am, July 2, 2021, Bakyt and Baibolat called an ambulance to take her to the hospital, as she was still suffering for the beating. An ambulance arrived from the state utility company “Ambulance Hospital,” economic management No.11 of Kosalky station, Almaty city. Bakyt was given a medical certificate about the presence of abrasions and bruises on her body, and a referral to a general practitioner by Orazgali, a medical assistant of the mobile team.
Then she went to the emergency hospital called 050017 after its postal code in Almaty city. The district doctor, Birjan Tileulessovich Utegenov, examined her and prescribed her medications and treatment.
Now Bakyt is going to sue Maulen, who strangled and insulted her, as well as Kapar and Darkhan, who tricked her into going with them to the police station without telling her she was under arrest.