Archive for June, 2011

More photos of Astana’s new buildings

Astana begs to have its pictures taken of, it is glitzy and brand new. The buildings go up quickly all around the new part of town and is a showcase for the rest of the world to see. Meant to be seen and Kazakhstan wants to be heard from. What better way than promoting its good side because more often than not, it is too cold to take photos or it is covered with snow.  Check out all these buildings and then you might wonder how much these builders were actually paid for their services. You have to have a sense of humor to work on these places. I call what looks like “toothpaste tubes” the Wobbly Buildings.  Creative names for every building in this funky city.

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Buddy Bears in New Astana, Kazakhstan (Part II)

No, the Buddy Bears are NOT back in Kazakhstan. Who knows where they are on this globe. Buddy Bears were a GREAT tourist sensation in the new part of Astana a year ago. I’m showing MORE unpublished photos I took at the time but for some reason didn’t blog about them. Here’s the second time around, reliving the past. The little girl in pink wanted me to take photos of her next to each bear. I complied with about 3 or 4 photos.  Her father and his friend were laughing (maybe out of embarrassment for this little pixie had no inhibitions in front of other people’s cameras). Clearly she got it, people enjoyed taking photos next to these statues representing different countries. I wonder where they are now?

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Photos around the new part of Astana, Kazakhstan

I’ve written enough for a while, I need to let my blog readers catch up.  Also, I am plowing through Anne Applebaum’s book “Gulag: A History.” No easy task, I can assure you.  I have such fond memories of the different places my husband and I saw a year ago at this time. The photo is taken at  the apartment complex called Highvill (no “E” at the end which bugs just about every foreigner who lives in Astana). You can see the President’s palace from their vantage point, it is THAT close. 

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Slavery is “alive and well” in Kazakhstan (Part II)

I am so proud of two of my former students who showed up at the American Corner in Astana last Saturday to listen to two speakers talk about human trafficking and then blogged about it.  I’m continuing what I started yesterday based mostly on the notes taken by Wizard of KZ, but this latest story is in the words of “New Challenge” which explains best what happens when slavery goes unchecked as it has for many, many years in Kazakhstan.  Read what New Challenge wrote in her blog about a living example:

A few years ago three people, two men from Karaganda and Temirtau and a woman from Ukraine, were freed after 15 years of forced work in a farm near Karaganda, the owner of which was rather famous and powerful in the local area. These three people were so far from the civilization that they even didn’t know about the independence of our country, about “tenge” (Kazakhstani monetary unit), they thought that people were still using rubles. They no access to Tv, radio, any sources of mass media, they just worked as slaves for no pay, under terrible conditions eating odds and ends left after the dinner of the owner’s family.

Initially, these three people were in good relationships with their “future” trafficker. They were having her internship in that farm before she was victimized, the other two men were simple workers and used to get salary and have good and friendly treatments at first. Then everything had totally changed. In those 15 years the woman lost her mother, and her sister moved to another country, so when she was freed (she was 28 years old when she was trafficked and was unmarried) she had nobody waiting for her back in her country.

Unfortunately, our guests [at American Corner] knew nothing about her further life. The “slaves” could not contact the police because one of the owner sons worked for the transport police, they just didn’t believe the local policemen. Fortunately, one of the owner’s seasoned workers was a really kind-hearted man, and when his work was finished, he reported the police about the situation happening in that family and could cause to release those “slaves”.  Anyway, the judge sentenced the owner and his son to three and two years probation. As it was discovered afterwards, the judge was a woman with three kids, and she was worried about her family.

That brings up a good point in this very sticky delicate crime against humans. The judges have to be strong to hand out sentences, otherwise the criminals will go after their families with threats or even death. May that NOT be so in Kazakhstan!!!

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Slavery is “alive and well” in Kazakhstan

According to guest speakers at American Corner in Astana, Kazakhstan, human trafficking or slavery is the second most profitable type of crime after drugs. The UN have statistics that report 5 million people become victims in human trafficking every year and the traffickers make about 8 billion dollars in income.   According to one of my students who attended this session with Marko Velikonja (International Narcotics and Law Enforcement) and Elena Beskrovnaya (INL Program Manager) mainly men are the victims of forced exploitation – 69.1%.  Sadly, 62% of the victims in Central Asia are exploited within their own countries. Slavery is alive and well in Kazakhstan and without proper awareness and education will continue unabated.

As Marinka Franvolic pointed out earlier when she spoke to my students, at least drugs can be found on the criminal as evidence and it is much easier to prosecute once drug dealers are caught.  Whereas, the victims are going along with their trafficker to a new, unknown destination not knowing they have been deceived. If there is any suspicion, or if the victim becomes alert to the fraud, the trafficker will plead innocent and get off the hook if law enforcement is called upon.  Therefore, a trafficker can get off scott free to victimize someone else since rigid penalties are not in place to strictly enforce those who are caught.

Three kinds of people are involved: victims, traffickers and the providers (transit people).  In the case of prostitution it would include the “johns” or customers. As mentioned earlier, every year five million people fall victim to exploitation (either sexual or hard labor with little or no pay) in the following kind of work:

Tobacco, cotton fields

Building construction

Child labor

Begging in street

Forced marriages



Surrogate maternity

Transplantation of organs

Who are these victims in Kazakhstan? They are usually the vulnerable people in the rural areas who are poor and jobless. Often they are heads of households who want to provide for their families.  Also, orphan children who have lived in orphanages all their lives but are turned out to fend for themselves at age 18 fall victim.  Basically it happens to uneducated people who have no skills in remote villages but it can happen to educated people as well.

The main tactic, after the victim has either been lied to or lathered with praise about their skills, abilities or beauty (cases of finding young girls at bars who are attractive and/or dance well), is to take away all of their documents once to their final destination.   The smart victims who are equipped with hotline numbers with the International Organization of Migrants (IOM) can get out of their slavery before they are exploited or raped by calling (8 8000 8000 15) free of charge.  The police hotline for dealing with human trafficking is 1 16 16.  Many Non governmental organizations throughout Kazakhstan exist and the phone numbers were given from 14 places: Astana, Aktobe, Aktau, Almaty, Zhezkazgan, Karaganada, Kokshetau, Kostanay, Krgyzlorda, Petropavlovsk, Taldykhorghan, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Shymkent, Taraz.  If I’m not mistaken most of these cities are in the northern part of Kazakhstan with the exception of 4-5 cities that are in the south.  What does that mean? More trafficking is happening closer to Russia OR more awareness and shelters with NGOs are in the north of Kazakhstan to help victims?

As it turns out, most traffickers are business people (owners of saunas, clubs, cafes, tourist and model agencies, farms, etc.)  Also, traffickers are former victims who are promised their freedom if they can bring in 2-3 more “victims” in exchange. Also, they are former convicts and corrupt government officials.

(to be continued)

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