The Future of Freed Slaves in Kazakhstan

The following is an e-mail I just got from a British teaching colleague in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Hopeful, but what will the future of these freed slaves in Kazakhstan be?  Stay tuned…

Some of you are aware that I was invited by IOM (International Organization for Migration) to visit some of the Human trafficking shelters in Kazakhstan to bring our clothes collections to them. I went to two places at the end of last week.  Lest you think it was a jaunt we drove over 1000kms (about 500 miles) in 47 hours. Yes, a bit wearing and I was not even driving!  Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it got warmer as we left Astana.

The first place we went is the oldest centre and has been in operation since 1997. First developed from a shelter for victims of domestic violence. There are 10 beds and they currently have six residents PLUS a baby about 8 months old. The international dimension was graphically illustrated – 6 people with 5 nationalities represented: Kazakhstan, Russian, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolian!  Two were in hospital: the Kyrgyzstan woman was having a leg amputation (don’t know the details) and the Mongolian man is being treated for torture burns (he had a large burn on his inner thigh – about the size and shape of a domestic iron – and an even bigger one on his outer thigh with blackened skin; you do NOT want to see the photos!)

Luba has developed close links with the police and prosecutor’s office and cases are followed through to success with one recent case resulting in a 15 year sentence (sadly not the case in Astana where a lot of cases fail due to ‘lack of evidence’ aka political will)

We next set out for the second shelter on Friday morning 7 a.m. We knew we had changed oblasts instantly with an awful road to navigate on.  However, we were made very welcome in the shelter office and I presented money that had been collected from individual donations here at our university as well the proceeds from the concert we attended and a contribution from the Christmas Holiday Fair at the Radisson Hotel in December 2011.

Here again it was a women’s rights group (are you seeing a pattern here?) that had developed the shelter, which is a small flat that has been very well refurbished (in contrast to the exterior) and could accommodate six though it would be a squeeze! The victims are usually a result of police tipoffs and currently they have two Russian women (AND another baby) who were rescued from a rural ‘sauna’!  We returned to Astana on Saturday morning through a very unpleasant snow storm and poor visibility and much lower temps again in Astana!

In sum, it was a very informative and inspiring trip seeing the great work being done and also re-emphasized the necessity of continual education through seminars in schools/colleges but also other groups (I saw photos of police & army classes) and following one seminar there was a tipoff that led to the rescue of 11 Kazakh sex trafficking victims!  Thanks are due to Luba and her team and Vera and her team at the second shelter.  Thanks also to IOM for the invite and to Ivan (the driver) for getting us there and back safely in awful conditions.

There will be another clothes collection near the end of spring term and other events (eg film evenings) are in the offing but I will let you know about them when they have been arranged  The most vivid memory? The hotel in the first city we visited which is best summed up by the Beatles – Back in the USSR!

Regards,

your fellow abolitionist

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