Ethnic Kazakh imprisoned in Xinjiang attacked in Kazakhstan

Kaster Musakhan is seeking asylum in the Central Asian country.
By Shohret Hoshur for RFA Uyghur
2024.01.05
Ethnic Kazakh imprisoned in Xinjiang attacked in Kazakhstan Kaster Musakhan, a Kazakh asylum seeker, is seen after being attacked in Kazakhstan by unknown individuals in Almaty, Dec. 22, 2023.
Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights Organization

An ethnic Kazakh who was imprisoned in Xinjiang, in far-western China, and fled to Kazakhstan in 2019 to seek asylum, was attacked by four unknown men on Dec. 22 after eating a meal with his brother in a restaurant in Almaty, the country’s largest city, he told Radio Free Asia.

Kaster Musakhan, 34, who was left with multiple injuries, said he didn’t know his assailants, but suspects they beat him for speaking out about how Chinese authorities repressed Muslims in Xinjiang. 

“Someone I didn’t know grabbed my hand and struck me,” he told RFA Uyghur. “Three more individuals joined in. All of them were Kazakhs.”

The men punched, kicked and struck Musakhan with a billiard stick, bruising his face, knocking out a tooth and breaking some of his ribs, he said.

It wasn’t the first time that a Kazakh asylum seeker had been attacked and beaten up in Kazakhstan, said Erbol Doletbek, a Germany-based organizer of the Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights Organization who believes China is behind the attacks.

In January 2021, Muragir Alim Asatani, 30, was stabbed, and Kaisha Akan, 48, was beaten by unknown assailants, in two different places on the same day, said Doletbek, who lives in Germany, and a Kazakh doctor who has been checking on Musakhan. 

“These Kazakh asylum seekers, helpless people, without passports in their hands, in a more difficult economic situation, have no chance of being enemies to anyone in Kazakhstan,” Doletbek said. “There is only one place where they expose the massacres happening in their own country to the media. Therefore, we believe that China is behind these attacks.”

Bilateral agreement 

Kazakhstan, China’s most important economic partner in Central Asia, previously pledged to repatriate ethnic Kazakhs seeking refuge from repression in Xinjiang. 

But an agreement between the two countries last September set immigration curbs on ethnic Kazakh nationals of China, including the sharing of information on each others' citizens and the potential repatriation of asylum-seekers who cross their border.

Musakhan said that no one in the restaurant tried to stop the attackers and no one, including the restaurant owner, called the police.

Gheyret Beytulla, an Atajurt member who found out about the attack and arrived at the scene, reported the incident to police, called a local hospital, and notified Doletbek about Musakhan’s situation. 

Doletbek began investigating the situation and reported what he found out about the attack by livestreaming a video of Musakhan’s injuries on Facebook.

Imprisoned in China

Ten years earlier, Musakhan was arrested by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang in March 2013 for allegedly participating in public protests by ethnic Uyghurs in Urumqi in 2009. 

He was sentenced to prison but released in November 201. The he was he was placed under house arrest for 16 months, according to an October 2019 report by Eurasianet. Authorities also threatened to send him to one of the region’s internment camps.

Desperate to flee China, in October 2019, Musakhan and another ethnic Kazakh Chinese national scaled a wire fence to enter Kazakhstan illegally, he said. Since then, he has lived in Kazakhstan where he has sought asylum.

The two men were arrested by Kazakh police the same month after speaking at a press conference in Almaty about their passage into Kazakhstan and desire to apply for asylum because of ill treatment in China, Eurasianet reported. 

After the attack, Musakhan was first taken to a small hospital where the Kazakh doctor works, but was denied treatment because he didn’t have the necessary documents with him. He was then taken to Almaty Emergency Hospital, where medical personnel informed him that a sixth rib was broken. 

The next day, Musakhan’s friends took him to Turkish-run Sema Hospital, where doctors discovered that one of his kidneys had been damaged in the attack, said the Kazakh physician, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of losing his job by talking to the media.

“Kaster is currently recovering at home, and I've been checking on him from time to time,” the doctor told RFA, adding that he is concerned that his kidney condition, which needs medical attention in a hospital, may worsen.

Musakhan, who lives in a house rented by another person, cannot afford further hospitalization, the doctor said. His friends are now trying to raise money to rent a house for him.

Musakhan said his attackers later called him and threatened him, though they did not say why they assaulted him.

Translated by RFA Uyghur. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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