On the Letter in Defence of Asiya Tulesova

July 10, 2020 marked an event that hadn’t happened in Kazakhstan for a long time — the country’s well-known entrepreneurs made a political statement. We are talking about the open letter of Erkin Tatishev, Oraz Dzhandosov, Bulat Abilov, Nurzhan Bekshenov, Erkesh Shakeyev and Asylbek Kozhakhmetov to President Kossym-Jomart Tokayev requesting his personal interference in the fate of Asiya Tulesova published by Forbes-Kazakhstan.

Note that the text of the address is quite demurred and is even softly tickling to Tokayev’s ear by citing the presidential statements addressed to the citizens — such as «we cannot give up, now it’s more important than ever to unite and fight for the life of every Kazakh citizen». Nonetheless, the letter does deserve respect. Simply because this very step requires certain bravery.  

We do not know who initiated this political event. Possibly, it was Erkin Tatishev since his name is the first one among the signers. Note that at least four of the six signers have once been a part of the opposition — Oraz Dzhandosov, Bulat Abilov, Asylbek Kozhakhmetov and Erkin Tatishev. Of course, as far as the latter is concerned, he was involved in the opposition indirectly, through his elder brother Erzhan Tatishev who, in the past, was Mukhtar Ablyazov’s business-partner and the co-founder of the first Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan.

As for Nurzhan Bekshenov, according to Forbes-Kazakhstan, in 2014, he owned the Positive Investment Group and invested in the development of the Zhalgiztobe field. Prior to this, at the age of 27, he was appointed the managing director of Kazkommertsbank JSC.

What prompted them to write this letter? We do not know that and aren’t going to venture guesses. Most likely, as it usually happens in Kazakhstan, someone just took the initiative. In our opinion, the appearance of this letter is a positive fact that testifies — the Kazakh society and its individual strata are starting to come to live.

Apart from that, the logic of the participants of this political act also deserves attention (text in bold by kz.expert).

«These are the times not only of unity but of humanity as well. Only by relying on humanity, on the absolute value of every individual and the inalienability of their rights, can we overcome the pandemics and build a better version of the society.

Unfortunately, we are now observing excessive cruelty towards young civil activists, first of all, towards activist Asiya Tulesova who is accused of «use of force against a public officer» (Article 380, Part 1 of the Kazakh Criminal Code) and, awaiting the trial, is being kept in jail since June 10, 2020.

For more than 30 days has this young woman who hasn’t committed any serious crime, who poses no danger to society, who is advocating for the civil rights that are cherished by all of us is being kept in jail based on the Article that permits detention in custody only on extraordinary occasions. What is so extraordinary about the case of Asiya Tulesova who is being accused by six policemen at once — the six strong, powerful men whose main task is the protection of the people?  

The generation of the young Kazakhs — educated, creative, concerned, intolerant to violations of the law and the impairment of the rights and freedoms — is our pride and the foundation for future development. We support your idea of the «listening state» and, for that, we will need the «speaking citizens».

We predict that the widespread and vigorous campaign in support of Asia Tulesova, particularly noticeable against the backdrop of the laughable accusations made against her and the number of the policemen that suffered from her use of force (six!), is likely to play its part and the court will probably give her not more than several years of suspended sentence depriving her from the right to engage in politics and speak in public. 

By the looks of it, this is exactly what Akorda and the Library wanted from the very beginning — to put on a noisy show in order to demonstrate to everyone what is going to happen to the excessively eager protestors albeit without putting too much pressure and creating a new political stress point. However, they still overdid it. By trying to pressurise Asiya Tulesova and keeping her in jail, they had played the wrong card.

Unfortunately, this story has its negative side as well — for whatever reason, Erkin Tatishev, Oraz Dzhandosov, Bulat Abilov, Nurzhan Bekshenov, Erkesh Shakeyev and Asylbek Kozhakhmetov did not mention the other victims of Akorda and the Library’s current repressive line of policy in their letter, particularly, the supporters of Mukhtar Ablyazov and the DCK-2 (the so called «subbotazhniki»). Even though the authorities are using the same tactics against the latter and the number of the victims is significantly higher.

The reasons why this happened are not hard to plumb: to the signers of the open letter, Asiya Tulesova is «nearer and dearer». And this is one of the important feature of Kazakhstan’s citizen activism of today — it’s almost always personal, emotional and topical in nature instead of being collaborative, ideological and adhering to principles.


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