EurasiaChat: Gender-based violence rears its ugly head again
In this week's podcast, we also discussed the phenomenon of undocumented migration to the U.S. and another perennial: worsening human rights.
In this week’s edition of the EurasiaChat podcast, we turned our attention to the problem of gender-based violence.
This topic has been in the news of late in Kazakhstan following the killing last month of a woman, Saltanat Nukenova, allegedly at the hands of her husband, a former top-ranking official in Kazakhstan’s government.
Kuandyk Bishimbayev, 43, is now in jail pending further investigations.
As podcast co-presenter Aigerim Toleukhanova noted, activists are now calling for the concept of femicide to be included in the statute books. According to UN figures, around 400 women are killed in acts of domestic violence every year in Kazakhstan.
There is another dimension to this story. By rights, Bishimbayev should have been in prison under the terms of the sentence handed down at his corruption trial in 2018. He was, however, amnestied by former President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2019.
This has only compounded the broader anger sparked by the killing of Nukenova. If Bishimbayev had served his sentence in full this tragedy would never have occurred.
Next in the podcast, the conversation moved to the phenomenon of migration from Central Asia to the United States.
Co-presenter Alisher Khamidov talked about a number of his own friends who used up all their savings to travel to Mexico, from where they planned to get across the border.
The number of Uzbeks embarking on this voyage is particularly high. Fox News reported in October that more than 13,500 Uzbek citizens have been detained over two years while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexican border unlawfully.
Alisher cited the testimony of one friend to explain why this trend is so pronounced.
“She had this idea that if she managed to go to America and start a new life, then all of her problems would dissipate and that she would be happy [and become] … accomplished as a person,” he said. “It seems like America [is a] psychological socio-economic magnet for a lot of people. It signifies freedom, happiness and just the completion of their life’s journey.”
Finally, Aigerim and Alisher addressed the continuing echoes of Bloody January, the deadly political unrest that shook Kazakhstan in January 2022.
In July, a court sentenced Aigerim Tleuzhan, a journalist and civic activist, to four years in prison over her purported involvement in a plot to seize the country’s main air terminal during that unrest. Earlier this month, Tleuzhan embarked on a hunger strike in prison. Reporters monitoring her situation say she has grown troublingly weak.
Aigerim Toleukhanova is a journalist and researcher from Kazakhstan.
Alisher Khamidov is a writer based in Bishkek.