Kazakhstan: workers of the video portal "Stan.Kz" sustained gunshot wounds

On October 26, 2011, Asan Amilov, a cameraman, and Orken Bisen, a journalist from the “Stan.kz” were subject to armed attack in Aktau, the Mangistau District. The bullet-wounded victims were admitted to hospital. A criminal investigation was initiated in connection with the incident.
The "Stan.kz" Information Video Portal  started its activity on March 1, 2007. A wide network of correspondents in Central Asia ensured the provision of quick and reliable information about life in Kazakhstan and its neighboring countries. Comments made by  opponents of the regime soon made this web newspaper well-known among local residents.

An attack on the "Stan.kz" journalists. At noon, on October 26, 2011, Orken Bisen, a journalist and Asan Amilov, a cameraman  were leaving  building 40 of the 2nd Microdistrict in the city of Aktau when suddenly, from the yard  where their car ( a taxi) was parked, four unknown men approached  them. They were armed with baseball bats with which they began to strike the journalists about their bodies. One of the attackers produced a firearm, presumably a non-lethal weapon. He shot Orken Bisen, the journalist, in his back and Asan Amilov, the cameraman, in his leg. Zharas Ongarbaev, the taxi driver who accompanied the journalists, also suffered heavy injuries after being kicked by the assailants.

The injured journalists are currently undergoing treatment in the trauma ward of the city hospital No.12 in the city of Almaty. Amilov, the cameraman, was admitted there with a bullet wound to his leg, massive blood loss and closed head injury. Additionally, his left arm is immobilized and he has sustained multiple bruising all over his body. He is still in the hospital. Orken Bisen, the journalist, has been released from the hospital and is continuing his treatment in the outpatient clinic.

Many facts indicate that the “Stan.kz» journalists were the victims of a contract assault. The perpetrators took the journalists' laptop which contained video footage relating to the strike of oil workers for the journalists’ next broadcast. They also attempted to damage their video camera.

A criminal investigation was initiated in connection with the incident under Article 179, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan on “Robbery with violence” Criminal investigative activities are now conducted under supervision of Diusen Nurzhigitovich Koyshibaev, the head of the Aktau City Department of Internal Affairs.

During the last six months the following employees of the “Stan.kz" were subject to persecutions:
1. Orken Zhoyamergenovich Bisenov, born on July 23, 1982, a journalist of the video portal Stan.kz, has higher education (graduated from the Department of Journalism of the Kazakh National University). He was subject to assault, was shot in his back and received moderate bodily injuries.
2. Asanzhan Mahametovich Amilov , born on February 18, 1967, a cameraman of the video portal Stan.kz, has higher education (graduated from the Almaty State University). He was subject to assault, receieved bullet injury in his leg and heavy bodily injuries.
3. Azamat Sarkhytbaevich Esbergenov, born on June 21, 1989, a journalist of the video portal Stan.kz, has higher education, graduated from the Department of Journalism of the Kazakh National University.   He has been repeatedly subjected to death threats made by the police officers.
4. Sherniyaz  Zhanabekovich Shagatay, born on May 15, 1987, an ex-journalist of the video portal Stan.kz, has higher education; he graduated from the Department of Journalism of the Kazakh National University. He voluntarily resigned from his job after he and his family started to receive death threats and threats of bodily injury from the police officers.
5. Talgat Umirbekov,  born on February 26, 1980, a cameraman of the video "Stan.kz". On September 7, 2011 a worker of the Sanitary and Epidemiological Station inflicted bodily injuries upon him.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the Public Foundation "Open Dialog" hereby draws the attention of all interested persons, organizations and the mass media to the case of the "Stan.kz" and appeal to the leadership of the Republic of Kazakhstan to ensure all safety measures for independent journalists and to bring to account the law enforcement officers who intimidate mass media workers.

For more detailed information, please contact:
          Nadejda Atayeva, The Association for Human rights in Central Asia n.atayeva@gmail.com
Lyudmyla Kozlovska, the Public Foundation “Open Dialog” lyudmylakozlovska@odfoundation.eu


Another victim of forced child labour in Uzbekistan: 13-year old boy in coma

Bakhodir Pardaev, born in 1998, a 7th grade school child, School No. 24, Chirakchi district, Kashkadarya province, was run over by a car while returning together with other schoolchildren from cotton fields. Along with other schoolmates, Bakhodir was sent in September 2011 to pick cotton in Usanov Eshdavlat’s farm, MTP “Sokhibkor”, located several kilometres away from the school.

It is a usual and frequent practice in Uzbekistan to mobilize children for work in cotton fields during the Autumn season. Sometimes they are compelled to walk to the fields and back home along the highways taking risk of being hit by the passing vehicles. This accident is not an isolated one in a series of similar traffic accidents associated to the cotton harvest campaign and coercive mobilization of school children every year.

Bakhodir was hit by y "Matiz" with plate numbers 18 P4564 at the 12th kilometer of the Hirakchi-Karshi  highway. In the wake of the accident neither the driver Bakhtiyor Yakhshiboev not the passenger Jalol Yakhshiboev, the driver's brother and reporter at the Kashkadarya province state TV bothered to visit the boy in hospital, and the journalist did not report on the accident in the local media.

The injured boy was admitted to the reanimation department of the district hospital in the state of coma. He was diagnosed with multiple heavy injuries: a rupture of the spinal cord, a fracture of the right side of the jaw, a broken arm and leg and injury to the right side of the torso.

Pardaev Bakhodir
On 26 September 2011, after long and fruitless efforts, he was transferred to the province hospital in Karshi city. Up to this day Bakhodir Pardaev is held in ward No.9 of the neurosurgery department and remains in coma.

Bakhodir’s mother – Makhbuba Ergasheva – is shedding bitter tears and nobody can comfort her. Doctors informed has immediately informed the internal affairs department of the accident. In spite of that, the investigation has not been launched with the prosecutor’s office having declined the request of the family to institute criminal proceedings. According to the local sources, the journalist of the province TV Jalol Yakhshiboev, who was in the car, enjoys the protection of the province khokim Nuriddin Zainiev. Apparently, the authorities decided to hush up the matter by any possible means. We know for certain that pressure is being exerted on the family of the injured child and the national Security Service officers guard the hospital to prevent any leak of information about the condition of Bakhodyr. They are prohibiting the heartbroken parents to contact human rights defenders and journalists.

The Justice will define the degree of liability for this accident. But in reality the judicial system in Uzbekistan lacks autonomy and follows instructions of the executive power.  Therefore, it is futile to count on justice in this country. The following officials should be held liable for giving orders on forced mobilization of children to pick cotton:
  1. Hokim (Head of administration) of the Kashkadarya Province Nuriddin Zainiev.
  2. Hokim of the Chirakchi District Kamol Ravshanov.
  3. Head of the public education department of Chirakchi hokimiyat (district administration) Azamat Bakhromov.
However, it was most likely not their personal initiative to give instructions to schools on the mobilization of children. They are only the executive agents of the state policy on exploitation of children, the policy approved by Islam Karimov and actively executed by Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev who is personally in charge for the cotton production.

Another official directly responsible for the practice of forced child labour and all related harm done to the children is Temir Shirinov, Minister of Public Education. Schoolchildren are taken away from studies for more than 2 months every cotton harvest and the Minister has done nothing to prevent this violation of law.

Each harvest, the whole country, under the leadership of these persons, is being turned into a single, Stalin-type labour camp, where millions of ordinary citizens and their children are being turned into slaves of the ruling regime.

Government has never been accountable to the people for spending of hundreds of millions of US dollar cotton export revenues. Profits from cotton exports have been so far spent on the satisfaction of the personal ambitions of the upper echelons of power: construction of luxury palaces, entertainment parties and window dressing with the invitation of expensive celebrities. And, finally, the cotton revenues are spent being to strengthen the repressive government machinery, which is an indispensable part of the system of exploitation of child labour by the state.

Not a single soum (Uzbek currency) of these profits is allocated to schools, which procure child labour force for the cotton fields. Authorities would not lift a finger to designate some money for quality treatment of Bakhodir Pardaev whose injuries are life threatening.

The leadership of Uzbekistan does not take the responsibility for numerous of similar accidents and damaging consequences of cotton production. Children are being truly victims of this cruel state order...

We call upon representatives of the European Union and the Members of the European Parliament to take into account this and similar cases when finalising its decision on the Textile protocol which is part of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. If this protocol is endorsed, textile and cotton from Uzbekistan will obtain tax and tariff preferences in Europe. That would encourage the Uzbek ruling regime to continue its policy of exploiting school children. None of these benefits would trickle down to the schools and children in Uzbekistan.