Press release

Kazakhstan: Release Human Rights Activist and Recognize Rights of Ethnic Minorities

Authorities arrested an activist who has rallied for the release of a relative imprisoned in the Chinese province of Xinjiang since last year.

In response to the Kazakhstani government’s detention of a human rights activist in connection to his peaceful protest over the imprisonment of a relative in Xinjiang, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We are deeply concerned by the Kazakhstani government’s unjustified arrest of Baibolat Kunbolat, who was peacefully demonstrating for the release of a family member detained in Xinjiang,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “This arrest, along with the apparent arrest of his mother and a fellow activist, is the latest example of the government’s systematic attempts to silence activists’ expressions of free speech and assembly in response to the situation in Xinjiang, further traumatizing and disempowering the victims of discriminatory Chinese policy who have sought refuge in Kazakhstan. We call on the Kazakhstani government to immediately release Kunbolat and other detained activists and cease its efforts to undermine their rights to free speech and assembly.”

Background:

On July 1st, Baibolat Kunbolat, an activist from the Kazakh human rights group Nagiz Atajurt, was arrested on suspicion of planning an unsanctioned demonstration in front of the Chinese consulate in Almaty. Authorities also reportedly detained Kunbolat’s 60-year-old mother and Nagiz Atajurt leader Bekzat Maksutkhan that same day. Kunbolat, who was previously detained for his activities in February and again in June, has called on Chinese authorities to release relative Baimurat Nauryzbek from his imprisonment in Xinjiang since last year.

 In mid-June, Nagiz Atajurt’s YouTube channel and primary advocacy outlet was temporarily taken down without clear explanation. Several videos were permanently removed, sparking allegations of state interference and censorship. To date, the Kazakhstani government has failed to publicly recognize the gross violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021, as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2021, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020. China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020.