Kazakh activists demand explanation from academic over internment claims

Activists from Kazakh human rights organisation Nagiz Atajurt, that has been documenting cases of Kazakhs and other ethnic groups being detained in the internment camps in the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (which is recognised among Kazakhs and other ethnic groups as “East Turkistan”), have demanded an explanation from a Kazakh academic who supported the Chinese government’s persecution of Kazakhs in China and has been recently appointed as the head of a Kazakh government-backed research institute.

Duken Masimhanuly, who was appointed to be the director of R.B.Suleimenov Institute of Oriental Studies in Kazakhstan on 2 June 2020, defended the Chinese government’s persecution of fellow Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslims groups during a TV interview earlier this year.

In the interview, he justified the Chinese government’s tough measures to detain Kazakhs, Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the internment camps in the Uyghur region. He claimed that the Chinese government took those measures because the Kazakhs in the Uyghur region fled to Syria for jihad, and used Kazakhstan as a transit location.

However, 17 individuals, including Nagiz Atajurt’s supporter and poet Gulishan Domalaykizi sent an enquiry to Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee trying to verify Duken Masimhanuly’s claim. The Department of Anti-Extremism of the Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan replied and confirmed that no Kazakh from the Uyghur region went to Syria for jihad. Atajurt members demand an explanation from Duken Masimhanuly about his groundless claims.

Bekzat Maxutkhanuly, head of Nagiz Atajurt, was concerned whether Duken Masimhanuly’s comments represent the Kazakhstan government’s position and he hoped that the Kazakhstan government can clarify its position and help save the ethnic Kazakhs who are still detained in the internment camps.

Numerous media reports have provided concrete evidence that at least one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic groups in the region are detained in the internment camps, which the Chinese government claims to be “vocational training” centers. Many survivors have reported having been tortured or ill-treated and forced to attend brainwashing sessions in the camps and the authorities.

Hong Kong-based human rights researcher & NGO consultant| PhD Candidate at Université Jean Moulin (Lyon 3). Twitter: @patrickpoon

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