While two organizations compete for the heritage and the name of Atajurt, some results, although not definitive, give reason for hope.
by Massimo Introvigne
With the help of volunteers defending human rights, another ethnic Kazakh who escaped Xinjiang was allowed to legally remain in Kazakhstan, at least temporarily, on December 25. The situation of these volunteers is somewhat confused and controversial. The organization that for years helped refugees from China, Atajurt, split in two. One branch was granted registration from the Kazakh government on September 24, 2019. However, some activists, with the blessing of Atajurt’s original founder Serikzhan Bilash, who has agreed not to speak in public on the refugee issues as part of a plea bargain that freed him from jail, refused to join the registered organization, claiming it is too close to the government. They continue their volunteer activity as an unregistered and unofficial branch of the old Atajurt.
Bitter Winter does not take any position in internal Kazakh issues. What we are interested in is that as many genuine refugees from Xinjiang as possible may be granted asylum in Kazakhstan and will not be deported back to China, where they will be detained in the dreaded transformation through education camps, or worse. As we reported on other cases in which members of the registered Atajurt organizations were involved, we are report today on one case where the refugee was supported by the unregistered volunteers, who supplied the information below to us.
In November 2016, he decided to pay a visit to his parents who were still living in China. There, his Chinese passport and his Kazakh residence permit were both confiscated by CCP police without any legal reason. Malikuly insisted to have his documents back. As a response, he was interrogated by the Chinese police about possible connection with extremists and claims to have been tortured. He was also told he may receive his documents back only after one year, or later.
Meanwhile, his wife in Kazakhstan, who was in poor health and not able to work, was not able to pay the rent. She and her children were about to be evicted from their home. On top of all this, one of his children was diagnosed with leukemia. His wife had no money to pay for his treatment and medicines.
On January 19, 2019, Malikuly fled to Kazakhstan, through barbed wires, snowy mountain roads, and howls of wolves. After several days, he reached his home, where he was sick for three months. He did not report to the police, as the case of Sayragul Sauytbay led him to believe that he would not be granted asylum.
Finally, with the help of independent volunteers, on December 19, 2019, he went to Taldikorgan city and submitted his application for asylum. On December 25, the Immigration Bureau gave him a certificate of “asylum seeker,” allowing him at least to legally remain in Kazakhstan. He is currently living in Shelek township of Enbeksh Kazakh county of Almaty oblast with his family. He still needs international support and sympathy, as his case develops.