Those who want to prevent ethnic Kazakhs who escaped from China from telling their stories continue to resort to legal and illegal actions.
by Laila Adilzhan and Serikzhan Bilash
A group of people who protested non-stop for 93 days in front of the Chinese consulate were arrested by the police of Medeu district, in Almaty, Kazakhstan on May 11. In total, eight protesters have been detained near the gas station Sinoil. They have been advocating for their relatives, ethnic Kazakhs who are detained in Xinjiang’s camps, and demanding at least to know whether they are alive or dead, and where they are.
This is the list of those who were detained :
1. Baibolat Kunbolat
2. Akikat Kaliolla
3. Gulpia Kazybek
4. Xalida Akytkan
5. Almakan Myrzan
6. Nurzat Ermekbai
7. Tursyngul Nurakai
8. Zhengis Zarkan.
Life continues to be difficult in Kazakhstan both for those who have escaped from Xinjiang and for those who defend their rights. We mentioned in Bitter Winter the stories of Kaster Musakhan and Murager Alimuly, and of Kaisha Akan. Earlier this year, Kaisha and Murager were attacked and wounded by unknown assailants.
Now Kaisha, Murager, and Kaster have applied either for Kazakh citizenship or permission to leave Kazakhstan for a third country. A representative of the migration police told them that “the law prohibits the granting of Kazakh citizenship to those who crossed the border illegally.”
Kaisha told Bitter Winter that, despite receiving refugee status, there were no practical benefits, and her social status in fact deteriorated, adding that “after all, we cannot even register our phone numbers in our name.” The migration police told lawyers that “under Kazakh law, convicts cannot obtain citizenship.”
“We told the ministry that we have nowhere to live, and there is no social assistance, and raised the issue of amending the law, if it does not allow us to obtain citizenship, said Kaisha. But they answered that the law cannot be changed so quickly. Then, we asked permission to leave for a third country. Because now we are in danger.” After the January attack, Kaisha is experiencing heart and other health problems. But, due to her status, she is not entitled to receive medical treatment.
Kaster and Murager also complain that living in Kazakhstan has become more difficult.
“Our main goal was to stay in Kazakhstan, they told Bitter Winter. At first, the authorities told us, ‘We will give you citizenship, just keep a low profile.’ We got used to it and kept quiet. But eventually, we were told that we would never be granted citizenship. Now the only option is to go to a third country. If they would give us citizenship, we would be glad to live in Kazakhstan.”
Kaisha sent a letter to the Immigration Department, asking for a refugee’s travel document allowing her to go to a third country. However, she was told that she will not receive the document. Instead, she heard rumors that she and others will be deported back to China very soon.
She was worrying about her safety. and travelled to the capital Nur-Sultan with Kaster and Murager, leaving her husband at home. The next day, unknown people entered Kaisha’s home by jumping over the fence. When Kaisha’s husband, Ergali, started recording them on a video, they covered their face, and ran away. They said they came on behalf of the police department. But why should police officers jump over a fence and try to enter a private home illegally? Both Kaisha and Ergali are now very scared that she can be physically attacked again.
The three refugees have subsisted on Red Crescent Society allowances, but their life is very precarious. “We want to leave to a country that is safe and can accept us,” they told us.
Meanwhile, Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights Serikzhan Bilash, the YouTube channel of the unregistered Atajurt organization, which protects the rights of national minorities in China, has been blocked. Before this, several Facebook accounts of the same organizations were blocked. Atajurt was accused of “cyberbullying” but the reasons of the complaints were obviously political. After two appeals, it seems that the YouTube channel has now being unblocked, but the organization cannot upload new videos.
Kazakhstan is a key for the situation of Xinjiang, as it is where thousands of ethnic Kazakhs with first-hand experience of the Chinese persecution live and testify about what they saw in Xinjiang. It has become a battlefield, where those who want to prevent the refugees from telling the truth to the world are ready to use violent and illegal means.