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Primaries of the Nur Otan party before the elections to the Mazhilis of the parliament of #Kazakhstan

For the first time in the history of Kazakhstan, the Nur Otan party primaries will be held on the scale of country-wide intra-party elections, after which candidates for the Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament) and Maslikhat (local representative body) deputies will be elected. The elections are due to take place next year.

As is known, the government of Kazakhstan has been actively implementing political reforms in the country over the past year. For example, the Law on Peaceful Assemblies has been amended to make it easier to organise and participate in assemblies. Furthermore, the National Council of Public Trust has been established by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to further facilitate the concept of a ‘listening state’. Amendments have also been made to the Law on Elections, including lowering the threshold for registration of political parties. The organisation of Kazakhstan’s first ever primaries is another step towards democratization and openness of the political process in the country.

There are a number of benefits to holding party primaries, both for the party and the country itself. Firstly, the process facilitates the democratic process of choosing potential future candidates, as each member of the party can cast a vote for the nominees. In addition, the process is more competitive as each candidate has to convince the members that they are suitable candidates and will perform to the highest standard if elected to the Mazhilis. This means that those who display the necessary attributes to become a deputy in Parliament are likely to be selected as candidates. Ultimately, this ensures that only the top candidates are selected.

Secondly, primaries ensure that new faces have the opportunity to participate in the process. This is especially important for Kazakhstan, which has been undergoing major transformations over the last few years, including the transition of power in 2019.

The First President of Kazakhstan – the Leader of the Nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, instructed to include at least 30 percent of women and 20 percent of young people under the age of 35 in the party lists for each Maslikhat and Mazhilis. In this regard, a unique situation this year is that for the first time in the history of Nur Otan, a certain number of women and youth will be added to the Nur Otan’s party lists.

These requirements were added to the rules for the primaries and approved by the political council of the party. The quota will empower women and their participation in political and civil processes. Kazakhstan already holds the second highest rate of female representation in parliament among the nations of the Eurasian Economic Union. This rule on quotas will further contribute to the involvement of women in politics and the decision-making process. In addition, opportunities have opened up for active and capable young people to make a career as a party member, and directly contribute to the ongoing modernisation and progress of Kazakhstan.

Today, all political parties, including Nur Otan, realise more than ever that young fellow citizens cannot just be considered as the electorate. They are also their main pool of candidates. But it is not enough to just understand this in theory. There should be new mechanisms for involving young people in the system of political governance.

One of these methods is the participation of young people in the preliminary party elections. Young members of Kazakhstan’s society are the future of the country, who will be responsible for its development and flourishment. It is therefore essential to include them in the political processes and elections as early as possible.

Initially, it was planned to hold the primaries from 30 March to 16 May. But due to the coronavirus pandemic and the quarantine measures in the country, the intra-party elections were postponed. Voting for candidates among Nur Otan members will now be held from August 17 to October 3.

The primaries include five stages:

  1. Nomination and registration of candidates;

  2. Preparation of candidates for campaigning;

  3. Campaigning;

  4. Voting;

  5. Confirmation of selected candidates.

In order to participate in the elections, the candidate must meet the following requirements: be a citizen of Kazakhstan, 25 years old or more, and permanently reside in Kazakhstan for the last 10 years.

The Party Control Committee, as well as regional and territorial commissions of party control, will oversee the conduct of the primaries.

During the primaries, voters will listen to the speeches of the Nur Otan members, as well as learn about their proposed programs and projects. Public debates will be held at conferences of regional, district and city branches. Participation in public debates is mandatory for all candidates.

It is worth noting that the public debates will provide an opportunity for the candidates to address the most pressing issues impacting Kazakhstan’s society today, including economic rehabilitation and growth following the COVID-19 pandemic, standards of living of Kazakh citizens, support for small and medium-sized businesses, the development of civil society, and other key priorities. Debating these issues during primaries means that the members of the party, as well as the public, are able to learn about the position of the potential candidates on these important issues.

According to the rules, candidates will campaign at their own expense. Financing from legal entities with foreign participation or from foreign citizens or government agencies is prohibited. On the day of the voting, one observer from each candidate may be present at the polling station.

Ultimately, the organisation of primaries by the Nur Otan party is a demonstration that Kazakhstan is willing to modernise and reform its political system to ensure pluralism of opinion, open debate and free competition. This will be a new experience at this level for the party and the country.

Nevertheless, the fact that a decision has been made to organise these primaries demonstrates that the ruling party and the authorities are confident in its abilities and the readiness of Kazakhstan to introduce this new practice. This bodes well for the future of Kazakhstan and its democracy.

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#Kazakhstan proposes 15% tax on #Bitcoin mining to help combat #Coronavirus

Kazakhstan Proposes 15% Tax on Bitcoin Mining to Help Combat Coronavirus

Kazakhstan has proposed legislation that would see a 15% tax imposed on bitcoin mining firms. This is part of efforts to raise money to help with the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Proposed by the country’s ministry of economy, the new tax plan requires bitcoin (BTC) miners to first file an application for registration with the authorities, according to a recent report by a local Russian publication.

After this, the taxpayer must then indicate the 15% tax on their annual tax calculations. The report notes that “the clause on registration makes the bill unique… the taxpayer working with cryptocurrencies stands apart from the very beginning of filing a tax return”.

Funds raised from the draft tax will be channeled toward building the infrastructure that is needed to combat COVID-19 while also giving the economy a boost. The disease has so far killed nearly 1,300 Kazakhs, with more than 100,000 infected, official data shows.

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet state in central Asia, accounts for about 8% of the global bitcoin hashrate total, says crypto research company Bitooda. Together with Iran and Russia, the country boasts the world’s third-largest BTC mining industry.

Miners are typically drawn to Kazakhstan’s cheap electricity, which averages 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

In June, Kazakh Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry Minister Askar Zhumagaliyev revealed that a total of 14 bitcoin mining companies were operating in the country’s north.

Over the next three years, the country is targeting up to $738 million of investment from crypto-related activities, particularly mining, he said.

According to the Russian publication, the Kazakh government is also planning to introduce legislation to regulate the cryptocurrency industry. The new laws are expected to set new electricity tariffs for the crypto mining sector.

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False reports of pneumonia in #Kazakhstan

Some Chinese media outlets are claiming that Kazakhstan has reported cases of unknown pneumonia, more deadly than coronavirus.  The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan officially states that this information is FALSE.

It should be noted that the WHO introduced codes for pneumonia in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), while COVID-19 is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically, for example through the symptom of ground-glass opacity and affected lungs, and it is not laboratory confirmed.

Kazakhstan, in this regard, like other countries, monitors and keeps a record of these types of pneumonia, which enables timely management-level decisions aimed at stabilising the incidence and prevalence of the coronavirus infection.

At a briefing on July 9, the Minister of Health of Kazakhstan Alexey Tsoi spoke about the overall number of pneumonia cases in the country: bacterial, fungal, viral origin, including “viral pneumonia of unspecified etiology”, as per the ICD-10 classification.

Therefore, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan emphasizes that the Chinese media reports are FALSE.

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#Kazakhstan President Tokayev’s first year in office a success says EU

What happens in Kazakhstan also matters for the EU because the 27-member bloc is the number one investor in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan’s new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (pictured), has marked his first year in office, with a pledge to forge ahead with more reforms. Tokayev won the presidential election on 9 June 2019 with 70% of the votes, running against six other candidate.  He is widely praised for introducing far-reaching reforms in the country, the eighth largest in the world though with a population of just 20 million.

In his first major speech, the president defined his policies in all fields of the economy and society.

In the state-of-the-nation address he promised to oppose ‘unsystematic political liberalisation’ and instead carry reforms ‘without running ahead’. Crucially, a large part of his one-hour speech was devoted to improving living standards for the Kazakh people.

He also emphasised his goal of having a strong president, an influential parliament, and an accountable government. This reflects the government’s continued focus on reducing inequality in Kazakhstan and improving Kazakh citizens’ quality of life.

At the same time, the president also focused on political and economic development, including supporting micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

While much of President Tokayev’s first year in office has focused on – successfully – delivering on these promises  prioritised domestic reforms, he has also paid heed to several foreign policy priorities for Kazakhstan.

Most recently, of course, the focus has been very much on combating the ongoing health pandemic.

Last month, he admitted that this “has not been easy for our country.”  He also warned, “the crisis has not yet been completely overcome. The epidemic has not completely disappeared. A pandemic is still dangerous to public health.”

Several key issues, he believes, still need to be resolved in the near future.

First. Improving the self-sufficiency of the Kazakh economy.

Second. Kazakhstan has allocated around 1 trillion tenge for the implementation of the president’s Employment Roadmap and, following the implementation of the projects, an analysis of their socio-economic efficiency will be carried out.

Third. the construction of affordable housing will give a powerful incentive for economic development, employment growth and social support.

Fourth. the time has come, he insists, to work out the issue of introducing a progressive scale of individual income tax in respect of wages and other types of income.

Fifth. Support for national business.

Sixth. The country should switch to working directly with each capital holder to boost increased competition for foreign capital.

So, what is the verdict on his first year?

Mukhtar Tileuberdi, the minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan, says, “The President has been quick to implement his ideas. In his first few months in office, he has shown his commitment to promoting the development of a multi-party system, increased political competition, and pluralism of opinions in the country”.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, said that in recent months “the breadth and depth of our relationship has progressed immeasurably.”

This is partly due to the fact that president Tokayev, in March this year,  signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union, he said.  In doing so, Borrell notes it became the first country in Central Asia.

The Spanish official, a former president of the European parliament, adds “The European Union is the country’s biggest trade and investment partner, while Kazakhstan is by far the EU’s largest trade partner in Central Asia. What is more, we have invested heavily in strengthening governance, supporting its justice, social and economic reforms.”

Borrell says that, under the president’s tutelage, “We are turning the page and beginning an exciting new chapter.”

Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, the Chair of the EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group in the European parliament, is equally enthusiastic, saying “In Europe, the prevailing opinion is that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in fact, is building a social welfare state, where special attention is paid to reducing inequality, improving the quality of life of every Kazakh, and where priority is given to solving the day-to-day problems of the people.”

The ECR deputy adds, “In the field of foreign policy, Kazakhstan, as has been the case before, pays special attention to its partnership with the European Union. On 1 March 2020, the European Union-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement came into force. On the basis of this document, we expect that the parties will be able to fully reap the benefits of their partnership. As EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group chair I will do my utmost to further our relations to our mutual benefit.”

But the president has also overseen a whole raft of other changes, including abolishing the death penalty and reaffirming the need to strengthen the role of the Kazakh language as a state language.

He is spearheading a rapprochement between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union and also promoted freedom of expression for his country’s 20m citizens.

The president is also intensifying efforts to attract foreign direct investment, support farmers to market their products to foreign markets and support the activities of the Astana International Finance Centre.

He has also pledged to continue to support micro, small and medium sized businesses.

Shavkat Sabirov, director of the Institute for security and cooperation in Central Asia, says there has been a damaging lack of public confidence in political leadership around the world in recent time and this has many causes.

“But,” he notes,” perhaps none is more important than the widespread belief – fairly or unfairly – of citizens that their wishes, concerns and hopes are being ignored or taken for granted by those they have put in power.

It is a charge that Kazakhstan Tokayev has shown in his first months in office that he is determined to avoid.

Since his election last year, he has made his main priority reforming state and government services so they are more responsive to the needs and ambitions of its citizens.

He has wasted no time, either, in extending as he promised opportunity to all and increasing support to those who need it most.

It is a packed agenda – and President Tokayev is promising there will be no slow-up in reforms.

Fraser Cameron, director of the Brussels-based EU/Asia Centre, is a vastly experienced and respected expert on Asian affairs and gives a decidedly upbeat assessment of the country’s new head of state.

“President Tokayev’s ambitious reforms,” says Cameron, a former senior European Commission official,”should provide a solid basis to deepen cooperation between the EU and Kazhakstan.”

According to Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, there is still room for improvement. He says, “In the field of human rights, the legacy of President Tokayev’s predecessor is very heavy and a lot of progress needs to be quickly achieved. Freedom of religion is one of those areas where some controversial laws should be revised and aligned to international standards as quite a number of peaceful Sunni Muslims have been unduly sentenced to very long prison terms. The US is putting in place a constructive policy in this regard with the establishment of the US-Kazakhstan Religious Freedom Working Group.

“Washington is also developing an Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD) and has engaged Kazakhstan on a range of issues, such as human rights, labor and religious freedom. President Tokayev should not miss this opportunity to restore the image of his country.”

Looking to the future, there is still much more to do if the shared ambition of First President Nazarbayev and his successor of Kazakhstan joining the ranks of the world’s most developed 30 countries is to be achieved.


Kazakhstan/EU Factfile

  • The EU is Kazakhstan’s biggest trade partner, with almost 40% share in its total external trade.
  • Kazakhstan’s exports to the EU are heavily dominated by oil and gas which account for more than 80% of the country’s total exports.
  • Exports from the EU are dominated by machinery and transport equipment, as well as products within the manufacturing and chemicals sectors.
  • Imports from Kazakhstan greatly exceed EU exports to Kazakhstan.
  • Kazakhstan has a growing importance as an oil and gas supplier to the EU. Kazakhstan has benefited from strong foreign direct investment in recent years, largely to its oil and gas sector. Almost half of the foreign direct investment inflow comes from the EU.


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#Kazakhstan bars entry to South Korean nationals due to #Coronavirus

Kazakhstan will bar entry to nationals of South Korea from March 8 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, deputy industry minister Berik Kamaliyev said on Thursday (5 March), writes Tamara Vaal.

Health Care Minister Yelzhan Birtanov told the same briefing that the Central Asian nation stood ready to deport foreigners who arrived from South Korea and other countries such as China from where it has banned nationals from entering Kazakhstan due to the virus.


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Tags: china, coronavirus, eu, Kazakhstan South Korea

Category: A Frontpage, China, EU, Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, South Korea

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Uighur Woman Who Spent 10 Months In Detention Camp Faces Deportation From Kazakhstan

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — It was snowing the day that she stepped out from the heavy iron gates of the Chinese internment camp where she had spent much of the 39th year of her life. Tursunay Ziyawudun was free — but the beauty of the soft snowfall blanketing the farmland only made her empty and sad. She thought, she later said, that she had lost the ability to feel.

Ziyawudun, 41, is one of just a handful of Uighur Muslims who have made it out of one of China’s now-notorious camps for Muslim minorities and gone abroad — to neighboring Kazakhstan.

After nearly 10 months locked up without ever being charged with a crime, Ziyawudun was released in December 2018. In Kazakhstan, Ziyawudun thought she was finally safe after months of nightmares, interrogations, and ritual humiliations at the hands of camp officials. Her long hair was lopped off, she was forced to watch endless hours of state propaganda on television, and every second of her life was filmed by security cameras. Each night, she had struggled to sleep, terrified she might be raped.

Her husband is a citizen of Kazakhstan, and she was initially granted a visa to stay. Things were looking up. But last year, she was given some terrible news — she must return to China to apply for a new type of Kazakh visa if she wanted to stay.

The Kazakh government says this is a procedural matter, but Ziyawudun knows that returning to China will likely mean she will be sent back to captivity.

China has locked up more than a million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in hundreds of internment camps in its far western region of Xinjiang. The campaign, which the Chinese government says exists to combat extremism and “reeducate” the population, has been condemned by the US, the EU parliament, UN authorities, and global human rights organizations. Kazakhstan, which borders Xinjiang, is a destination for thousands of ethnic Kazakhs fleeing the campaign. However, Uighurs like Ziyawudun have limited rights to settle there.

Ziyawudun is one of a small number of former detainees who have spoken publicly about their experiences in the camps despite being explicitly told to keep quiet by Chinese officials. Because the Chinese government heavily restricts movements and access for independent journalists in Xinjiang, it is difficult to verify many of the details that she describes. But her story dovetails closely with accounts of other camp survivors from the same prefecture interviewed by BuzzFeed News, ranging from the appearance and structure of the camp’s buildings to the everyday tasks and activities that took place inside.

Ziyawudun also provided identification and immigration records, including correspondence with Kazkakh immigration authorities, to BuzzFeed News as a means of corroborating her story.

Ziyawudun told her story in the bedroom of a cramped apartment in the city of Almaty — a few hours from the village where she now lives. Wearing dark jeans and a soft blue headscarf, Ziyawudun’s voice was hoarse from the dry cough she was battling. But still, she spoke for hours. At first her tone was acerbic, skeptical that there was any point in talking to a journalist. She was quick to laugh at the absurdity of life inside the camp, where Communist Party of China films were termed “education” and having lived abroad amounted to proof of “unreliability” as a citizen.

But when she spoke about the precariousness of her new life in Kazakhstan — and the possibility she might be sent back to China to face internment again — her body heaved with sobs. “I am terrified,” she said. “If I am going to be sent back to China, I have already made up my mind. I will kill myself.”

Matt Rota for BuzzFeed News

Ziyawudun was born in the summer of 1978 in a tiny hamlet in Yili, a part of Xinjiang where ethnic Kazakhs are the dominant minority group. Of about 300 households in the village, her family, who raised cattle on their small farm, were among only five Uighur homes, but she never felt like an outsider. Her village was surrounded by hills, and nearby there was a spring with water so pure you could drink from it.

After she got married, she moved to Kazakhstan with her husband, an ethnic Kazakh from the same region as her, and ended up living there for five years. There, she worked at a medical clinic. She crossed the border back to China in November 2016 with her husband and was immediately detained and interrogated for half an hour. The police made it clear, she said, that it was because she was Uighur. Later, when she got to her brother’s hometown, the local police called her into a station again — this time to have her iris scanned, her voice recorded, her saliva swabbed and fingerprints taken. On her way home, she was stopped at a roadside checkpoint and an actual alarm went off, likely signifying she was on a government blacklist.

“I was terrified and ashamed. People were surrounding me, looking at me like I was a criminal,” she said. “In retrospect, it was a sign that I would be taken to a camp.”

Police also seized her passport, as well as her husband’s — a common measure taken to prevent Muslim minorities in the region from traveling.

Months passed without further incident, but then in April 2017 police called her to a meeting. It turned out to be a lecture in a big conference hall with other Uighurs and Kazakhs from the area. Government officials told everyone present that they needed to “get some education.”

From there, the police drove them to a place that they called a “vocational training school.” At the time, Ziyawudun was terrified — but in the context of the many worse things that followed, the facility now seems tame to her.

“To be honest, it wasn’t that bad,” she said. “We had our phones. We had meals in the canteens. Other than being forced to stay there, everything else was fine.”

In the evenings, the instructors taught the detainees to do traditional Chinese dances in the yard of the building, she said. Sometimes there were lectures — an imam working for the state might come in and talk about how important it was to avoid “extreme” practices like wearing headscarves.

Ziyawudun was released a few weeks later. She was relieved, but her husband was panicking. He had heard from relatives that the situation was changing — for the worse. They would later learn that that year was the first of the government’s campaign that would see hundreds of thousands of Muslim minorities swept up into internment camps for reasons ranging from listening to religious sermons to downloading WhatsApp. Ziyawudun’s husband went back and forth to the local police station, begging them to return their passports.

Finally, months later, police relented. One of them could return to Kazakhstan for good, the police said, but the other had to stay as a kind of “guarantor.” If the person who left criticized the Chinese government while abroad, the one who stayed could be locked up as punishment, or worse.

Ziyawudun’s husband is significantly older than her, and as an ethnic Kazakh, he would have an easier time staying in Kazakhstan. She let him go instead of her. Anyway, she thought, there wasn’t much to worry about. Her stay in the previous camp had been strange but brief. Whatever came next, she thought, she was strong enough to handle it.

On March 9, 2018, the police came for her again — she needed, in their words, more “education.”

But the compound where she was taken now looked completely different.

When the police car pulled up at the building, she saw a newly built, menacing entrance with huge metal gates, guarded by armed police. Brick walls towered above her, and loops of barbed wire circled the top.

Inside, an area where before there had been trees and grass was the site of a new five-story building. She found out later that it was meant for the most serious offenders.

Greg Baker / Getty Images

A high-security facility that is believed to be an internment camp, on the outskirts of Hotan, in Xinjiang, May 31, 2019.

Many people were being processed into the compound that day. “There were hundreds of people, young and old, men and women,” Ziyawudun said. She saw women wailing, demanding to know what would become of their young children.

Police told the women to take off their necklaces and earrings. Nothing metal was allowed in the compound, even zippers on their clothes. Ziyawudun said it was the scariest day of her life.

A group of women filed to a dormitory building in the compound — a different building than the one where she had stayed before — flanked by armed guards. Each room, she saw, had a heavy metal door on the front. There was a communal bathroom in the hall, and bathroom breaks were restricted to just three minutes. At night, they had to use a bucket inside the room. It was humiliating.

Ziyawudun thought if she became ill, she might be released. The last time she had been detained, her sentence had been cut short, she thought, because of her health. So she refused meals of watery soup and boiled cabbage for four days. On the fifth night, she fainted from hunger. The guards woke up an official to ask what to do. When the official came, she only said, “Why did you wake me up? She’s fine, she won’t die.” After that, Ziyawudun started eating.

Once in a while, detainees would be taken to an interrogation room to be grilled about their pasts, often for hours. “They told me I was an ‘unreliable’ person,” Ziyawudun said with another bitter laugh. Her interrogators asked her whether she had ever worn a headscarf and how long she wore her skirts. They asked her why she had spent so much time in Kazakhstan.

Aside from the interrogations, everyday life in the camp ranged from stultifyingly dull to terrifying and bizarre. Many days, inmates were forced to sit on plastic stools beside their bunk beds, with their backs perfectly straight and their hands on their knees, watching endless state television programs extolling Chinese President Xi Jinping. On another day, she remembers, two women began screaming and banging on the door for guards to let them free, saying they held Kazakh citizenship. They were taken away, and Ziyawudun never saw them again.

Matt Rota for BuzzFeed News

There seemed to be hundreds of people in the compound — including the men who lived on other floors — but Ziyawudun couldn’t be sure, since she was never allowed inside other buildings. For the most part, she and the other women on her floor weren’t allowed outside at all.

Ziyawudun’s health started to deteriorate from the cold and bad food. She became anemic. But the hospital building in the compound was even more terrifying. There, she saw men come in with bruises from being beaten and scars she thought were from electric batons.

Ziyawudun’s dorm room had three cameras, which guards used to monitor the women at all times.

One day in June or July of 2018 — Ziyawudun doesn’t remember exactly when — one of the guards told the women they must all have their hair cut short. Ziyawudun expected a hairdresser to come. Instead, it was just a woman with a pair of scissors. She chopped each detainee’s long hair to chin length. It was never explained why — but other female detainees interviewed by BuzzFeed News said this also happened to them. For many women from central Asian cultures, wearing your hair long is not just a style but a symbol of a woman’s beauty and pride. The experience of having it hacked off, for Ziyawudun, was devastating.

Nobody discussed rape in the camp. All conversations were monitored by guards or surveillance cameras. But it was on Ziyawudun’s mind all the time. If she were raped, she knew, there would be no one to tell about it, no place to report the crime. After all, she had landed in the camp because authorities felt she was “unreliable.” If one of the women were raped, who would believe them? She had never felt more vulnerable in her life.

Sometimes at night, she said, younger women would vanish and come back with no explanations.

In the darkness of the room, she would hear them quietly sobbing.

“Nobody can talk about this openly,” she said.

The real torture, she discovered, took place in silence, in the inmates’ minds.

“I wasn’t beaten or abused,” she said. “The hardest part was mental. It’s something I can’t explain — you suffer mentally. Being kept someplace and forced to stay there for no reason. You have no freedom. You suffer.”

Matt Rota for BuzzFeed News

In December 2018, one of the guards came into the dorm room and asked if anyone had relatives in Kazakhstan. Ziyawudun raised her hand. She didn’t know if this was why — nobody told her — but a few days later, on Dec. 26, 2018, she was released from the camp.

The relief she expected never came. “I didn’t feel happy at all. I had so many friends inside. I felt very sad for them.”

For a long time, she was under effective house arrest, having to check in with the police if she wanted to visit friends or family. After a while, for reasons that are still unclear, the police returned her passport to her. She believes it is because her husband campaigned for her in Kazakhstan.

Ziyawudun’s asylum-seeker status in Kazakhstan will likely last until mid-May, according to her lawyer.

Ziyawudun is afraid that she, like other Uighurs, will be detained again at the border if she returns to China. The idea of returning made her shake with anxiety, and as she spoke about it her voice broke. She stood up and began to pace around the small room.

Her lawyer, Aina Shormanbayeva, said she’s not optimistic given Kazakhstan’s history when it comes to asylum cases.

“It’s more likely that it’s no. We are ready to appeal to the court, frankly speaking,” she said.

“This is an issue of gross violations of human rights in Xinjiang. Kazakhstan should recognize these violations and provide refugee status,” she added.

Ziyawudun said she feels helpless.

“I am not a Kazakh,” she said. “My position here is different. The whole society is raising the issue of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang. Nobody is raising my situation other than myself.”

“I have really lost all my hope,” she added. “I get so angry and emotional. All I can do about this is let people know.” ●

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