Kazakhstan: minority rights defender detained and threatened for joining a protestEvent
- Initial Date
- Feb 10, 2021
- Event Description
A court in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, has sentenced a man to 10 days in jail for picketing the Chinese Consulate to demand information about his brother, who is in custody in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The court on February 10 found Baibolat Kunbolatuly guilty of violating the law on mass gatherings and sent him to jail for 10 days.
A day earlier, Kunbolatuly and nine other people, mainly women, picketed the Chinese Consulate in Almaty, demanding their relatives be released from so-called reeducation camps in Xinjiang. Some of the protesters said their relatives have been prevented from leaving China for Kazakhstan to join their families, while some said their loved ones have been held incommunicado in Xinjiang for years.
Kunbolatuly says that, while in custody, he came under pressure from officials who demanded that he end his campaign.
He adds that officials threatened that he might “end up like Dulat Aghadil,” a prominent Kazakh activist who died in custody from an alleged heart attack last year in a death that raised suspicions of foul play.
“An official told me: 'Your heart might stop, too,'” Kunbolatuly told RFE/RL after his release.
He says officials told him that his actions could harm his children’s future.
“They told me: 'When your children grow up, they might want to work in government agencies, but they won’t be able to do so [because of your actions]. Then your children would hate you. You’re causing them to suffer,’” Kunbolatuly said.
Officials at the detention facility in Almaty refused to comment on Kunbolatuly's charges when contacted by RFE/RL.
Kunbolatuly admits that he is worried about the potential impact his actions could have on his family if he continues his campaign and is rearrested.
“I think about what would happen to my children if I were to die [in prison]," he says. "What happens to my elderly parents who are already suffering because of my [brother's disappearance]?”
Kunbolatuly's mother, Zauatkhan Tursyn, was in front of the Chinese Consulate with several other women again on February 10, the third day in a row of such protests.
"China incarcerated one of my sons, Kazakhstan jailed another. I demand from Chinese authorities to release my son Baimurat, and I demand Kazakh authorities release my son Baibolat," Tursyn chanted in front of the consulate, holding pictures of her son.
Other women were holding pictures of their relatives and had posters saying "China, Stop Genocide."
An Almaty city official and police were monitoring the protest, but did not interfere.
A consulate security officer appeared to remove a piece of electronic equipment with multiple antennas from the building as reporters covered the event live. After he emerged, the journalists said their Internet connection stopped working.
A security official denied the removal of the piece of equipment had anything to do with the Internet outage.
Many similar protests have taken place in Kazakhstan in recent years, with demonstrators demanding Kazakh authorities officially intervene in the situation faced by ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang.
The U.S. State Department has said as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim, ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers.
China denies that the facilities are internment camps.
People who have fled the province say that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang are undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of facilities known officially as reeducation camps.
Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs. The region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans. Han, China's largest ethnicity, is the second-largest community in Xinjiang.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Death threat
- Intimidation and Threats
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Right to liberty and security
- Right to Protest
- Minority rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 10 February 2021, Baibolat Kunbolatuly, minority rights defender, was sentenced to 10-day imprisonment by a court and received death threats from prison officers, the day after he joined a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy calling for the release of their Kazakh relatives from detention camps, in Almaty, Kazakhstan.