Archive for April, 2012

“Bad Writer is a Bad English Teacher”…oh really?!

The attached photo is a wonderfully warm, Kazakh teacher who got hurt by her own educational system while teaching at a westernized university in Almaty. I knew her to be a good, motherly type mentor to her university students.  She is neither a bad writer or bad teacher but her superiors dismissed her without any explanation.  I’ll withhold her name but let it be known that I witnessed several painful injustices (my own included) within this so-called institute of higher learning while teaching three and a half years in Kazakhstan.

I want to highlight the writings from two Kazakh women in this blog. One I know only from reading a website titled “Vox Populi” and the other is a former student of mine.  I think the two go together because they are suffering the same angst of living in a country of Kazakhstan that is going through phenomenal growth spurts.  There’s baggage from what used to exist from the Soviet Union, yet hopeful anticipation in what could be their future in Kazakshtan.  The first one is named Madina and a summary of what she said in Russian in an interview to Vox Populi after I used Google translation.

“A typical dream for us 30 year olds in Kazakhstan is to go where we feel our rights are not violated, where there is law and order and where the government works for its citizens.  I am part of an astonishing generation, we were born in the Soviet era where we grew up during the breakup of a single state (USSR) but have taken off running during the construction of a new nation (Kazakhstan). Therefore, many of our own parents will never understand that we have a sense of choice.

When I was 27 years old, I began to choke on what surrounded me, the country, the people, our laws.  My friends and I found the easiest way out, we just ran away and left for a half a year to the United States.  America seemed at that moment a bulwark of democracy.  I left Kazakhstan with the underlying idea of staying in the U.S.  This is so typical of us to dream to go somewhere else…but experience showed us all the same problems in the U.S.  Eden, NO!  I went back to Kazakhstan but I came back more relaxed.  I learned to accept the imperfections of the world.

Even with blatant injustice in Kazakhstan, my contribution is to keep working on this project to uncover everything that happens in our country to show a different life, to expose social problems and talk about difficult situations.  Unfortunately, I am not a revolutionary in spirit, to ride with a sword.  Also, I do not like publicity, but I admire people who are active citizens righting wrongs.  If we had a “Swamp,” I would have walked out.  No, instead I have gotten up on a stage, not to be encouraged but to be listened to and supported.  Civic engagement in Kazakhstan doesn’t happen because the majority believes that stability is better than change.”

Here’s the second one from Aigerim, a former student of mine who nails it about where the problem of slavery works into the mindset of the Kazakh citizen. She was a teacher who got in trouble with her superiors for pointing out some errors in her contract.  They are to teach critical thinking to their classes but at the same time they are to obey and not object to injustices.  She is NOT a bad person, teacher or writer…read on:

“Bad writer is a bad English teacher. I want to be a good teacher, or at least not another person reciting same old song or grammar rule. I stand firm on the point that any skills or knowledge taught should be relevant.

When I conducted IELTS classes at my former work place, which is an elite focused and fully funded from President`s fund, I committed to turn this extra-curricular free of charge classes into a writing experiment. We watched and reflected on films, then wrote on blogs. Some of students created and posted their own poetry. Indeed, learners came up to a stage where they reflected on their lives. They wrote great essays about teenage suicides and problems of education in our country.

While my students were making their best in critical thinking, my own free speaking brought me into trouble with a department manager as I enquired too many questions on controversial points in a contract. Well, I don`t regret appealing against bosses, I am quite happy with my new job. When my writers learned about my resignation due to my being a wrong format, one student replied with a phrase that still warms my heart, “If you’re A4 format and they’re A5 (smaller), that doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher, you’re just different.”

Young people can think critically until they are framed into stupid rules. Nowadays it is common to think that you have to say what your teacher wants to hear and you get a point, do what your boss wants and keep your place of employment. The problem of slavery exists not only on construction sites and massage parlors, but in thoughts and enslaved wills of ordinary people.

My colleagues were obedient and got another year of their teaching contract. However, I wonder whether these teachers are able to teach young people to think critically and act globally.”

I love my former student’s writing about being different and indeed she is NOT a bad teacher or a bad writer.  On days like this, I feel the same where it is difficult to write and English is my native language.  Some days I feel defeated in trying to explain from my “A4 framework” that I don’t fit in with the A5 environment whether it is in the U.S. OR in Kazakhstan.

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Visit to Almaty’s trafficking shelter

The following was written by a British person who has been actively involved in helping the trafficking shelters in Kazakhstan. He supplies different shelters with donated clothes, kitchen utensils and other things necessary for living in transition.  He has gained the trust of those in charge of places where trafficked victims either stay for a short duration or spend time getting rehabilitated.  For a peek in, this provides a good window into what is really going on:

“I was invited to visit the shelter in Almaty in the course of a recent visit to the city in the company of Aliya who is the national trafficking officer for the International Organisation for Migration  It is currently the only IOM shelter in the south of Kz though there are plans in motion to open another shelter closer to Taras, but as yet with no fixed calendar for its realization (victims rescued in the area are helped through cooperation with other NGOs on an ad hoc basis)

The shelter in Almaty is a small flat and Nurgul, the director, claims it is the smallest in Kazakhstan. But after I recently visited a new one in northern KZ, there is one that is actually smaller which seemed to disappoint Nurgul!  It is however quite airy and the little space available is used very efficiently – it has to be! There were only two residents when I visited though the number varies greatly (as in all the shelters) due to it also serving as a transit shelter for those rescued from other countries (e.g. Turkey).  I was told that over the last year the shelter has had as many victims as in Astana though they tend to stay for a shorter period.

The staff consists of two shifts of two people with another person who can be called on in case of holiday and/or illness; they are VERY strict about NO contact when off duty in order to avoid ‘burnout’!  Nurgul is both the Director and psychologist and the other staff are social workers. All staff are female as it is a center for women only (Astana usually has only women, but does accommodate men as well, e.g. some of the group of 11 Uzbeks from last year stayed there) Over the years Nurgul has built up good relations with the local police though police involvement in (particularly) sex trafficking is well known (a previous resident recognized one officer from a photo of a seminar group to increase awareness of the issue!)

There is a very much more open approach evident with an emphasis on rehabilitation & reintegration through engagement with the outside world. Keep in mind that the northern shelters are both located some way outside the city centre so travel to/from the centre is rather less straightforward. They take a LOT of photos which are displayed on the walls and kept on their computers and are evidence of their willingness to go out with/take out the young women in their care. They visit exhibitions as well as go to shopping centres and other amusement areas such as zoos, leisure parks, etc.

The victims in the shelter are also encouraged to undertake some form of vocational training to improve their employment opportunities (much needed in view of their generally low education level) as well as craft activities to identify any latent talents they may have. Detailed records are kept of anything they have done including a ‘mood diary’ where a resident uses different colours to indicate their mood on a given day; I was shown one where the only ‘bad’ day was when the young woman had contact with her mother!

One rather heart-warming example was that of a young woman who was a given a job through a friend of Nurgul’s who had her own business; the young woman is now a department head!  There are sadly rather more cases of people ‘slipping through the net’ after leaving the shelter and returning to their life as a trafficking victim (either through economic necessity or through a form of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’)

But, to finish on a more optimistic note one of the residents was a young woman who was rescued from potential labour trafficking through the prompt and effective action of a police officer after being alerted by the victim’s mother in Uzbekistan.  A further contrast with Astana is that Nurgul felt that labour trafficking had become more significant through her observation over the last few years.

My overall impression was very favourable; I was impressed by the sincerity and commitment shown by Nurgul and her staff and the organization of the shelter.  Of course, it does not all go smoothly when the residents are young women who want to go out and have fun, which has led to problems with late night ‘visitors.’ But in general, there seems to be a very good atmosphere in the shelter.  I certainly appreciated the opportunity to visit the shelter and see for myself how things operated and Nurgul was pleased to pass on her thanks to all those who had contributed clothes/bedding to the shelter.

Thanks are also due to Aliya for arranging everything and acting as interpreter the work, however, is never ending unfortunately so contributions are constantly needed therefore clothes and/or household items can always be donated through me.”

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In Kazakhstan “Creativity NEEDS freedom!”

I was chatting with my former Kazakh student and I wrote: “Creativity needs freedom. Independence of mind breeds wholesome thought.” I had just learned from her that a second year male student jumped to his death from the 9th floor window of his dormitory before the spring semester started.  This tragedy happened at the GREAT university in Astana where so much money has been poured into the building complexes, into these students and their high paid teachers from London.

What is even more tragic was that it was never reported in the local or national news in Kazakhstan. Somehow it was “smoothed” over as Aigerim put it. He was a good student but he could not take the pressure any longer. These students at my former Kazakh university are under such intense demands to perform.  Some have been ill equipped from their studies elsewhere in the country by teachers who are using old style Soviet methods.  My former student who was a teacher for some of the best and brightest students in Astana fears for her students lives, those who have been accepted in this great university that is meant to produce geniuses. They need a counselor in residence who can help these young defenseless students out, a place where they can vent or have a shoulder to cry on.

I believe these Kazakh students have such demands on them as if there is a gun pointed to the back of their head and they are told by their captors, “Be creative!”  I know Kazakhstan has a very high suicide rate (exceeds Russia) among their youth but it is regrettable that even among the most gifted, they feel desperate enough to end their lives.  These bright students are supposedly the hope of the future of Kazakhstan.  Perhaps they are the future slaves of their country. All 1,000 students are on full-ride scholarships. What does that tell you when some students want to end their lives in such a tragic way?

The following is what Aigerim wrote to me to give me an update on activities:

“How great you have been my teacher and I hope I learned something from you. The main thing I liked about your classes was the way you taught us to think beyond the context deep into the roots. Hope my classmates could manage teaching critical thinking at school using this up-to-date context. Your blog is a good source of “food for thought.” Perhaps, someone from the establishment will happen upon it someday, feel ashamed and start acting in the proper direction.

Your last Moodle assignment was on change management. I remember skipping this last task. No, I wasn’t stubborn or lazy. I just have no such a habit to reflect on what I do not know and have never done. Now, as I made some attempts it is possible to dwell on changes and ways of making change in Kazakhstani context. What if to entitle this post “Critical Thinking in Kazakhstan”?

There are not the only four centers for victims of human trafficking in our country. In my hometown Aktobe there is a crisis center for women who suffer domestic violence. These same centers help victims in the southern and northern parts of the country. Mostly these NGOs seek for grants from international organizations or, if the head is on good terms with the statesmen, get support from the government. Also, The National Red Crescent Society provides any kind of support to migrants and repatriates, single mothers and all those who are “unfortunates” in Kazakhstan.

I had a great opportunity to work with one of the shelters and visited another two, I learned about their work and, what is more valuable I learned the reasons that enslave people. As far as I know, the victims could be divided into the following groups: 1) migrants from neighboring countries (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, and China), 2) ethnic Kazakhs who return from Turkmenistan, China, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, etc. as they do not speak neither Kazakh nor Russian, 3) people from low-income rural areas, 4) children from orphanages, 5) troubled children and the saddest fact, children with mental and physical disabilities.

Once an American friend asked me, what if victims tell their story to interested people as it attracts society to the problem of trafficking. Actually, one of the rescued girls from Temirtau (small industrial town dozen kilometers away from Astana) became a volunteer. She talks to women at the shelter, helps them during the rehabilitation. However, it is the only case I witnessed. Due to Kazakh mentality, people prefer not to speak about being enslaved or being forced into prostitution. According to common idea, the only person to blame is the victim. She made a mistake, may be it was up to her way of living or behavior.

There was a happy ending recently with one of the rescued women in Astana. A Kazakh woman was forcibly involved into prostitution and she got pregnant. Unfortunately, I do not know the details of her case. I met her several times at the shelter since autumn. Gulmira was pregnant and soon bore a baby boy. The baby was weak and they spent much time in the hospital. When I told about babies in the shelter, my current boss gathered three bags of children’s clothes and toys. Moreover, the most part of them were new. She said her kids grow up fast that they are not able to use all the clothes given as presents. Anyway, these bags were a great joy for my people. When I brought these and other clothes different people donated (my family members, colleagues and even my manicure girl!), people at the shelter looked at children’s stuff with joy and excitement. The feeling of warmth emerges when you show some support and encouragement to those who are misfortunate.

But about Gulmira, in winter her relatives came and took her home. I remember, Luba, the NGO coordinator at IOM, sighed with relief speaking about this woman. It is unusual for Kazakhs to accept the shame of being a prostitute and having a baby from an unknown person. Indeed, these Kazakhs forgive everything and are sincerely happy with the fact that their sibling is alive. So, it all depends on the family.

Unfortunately, Amina is an orphan from southern Kazakhstan, has problems with eyesight. Her relatives sold her for servitude in Astana, and kept receiving her invalid’s pension. When she was rescued, she had a baby in her belly. When I last saw Amina she was looking for a job. Unfortunately, she has no home and welcoming relatives.”

Thanks to my former student who sees and knows things I could never be aware about while back in the U.S. She can inform me about what is happening in Kazakhstan even though my blog is now blocked from being read within Kazakhstan unless people have a VPN (Very Private Network).  Yes, there is no freedom of thought in Kazakhstan if things are blocked or obfuscated such as this suicide that was not reported. They certainly do not want people from the outside to know that slavery is going on in Kazakhstan.  If it helps for those who CAN read this in Kazakhstan and feel ashamed of the statistics about slavery, it is going on everywhere in the world.  EVERYWHERE.  What we need is creativity in knowing how to solve this problem so that ALL people can be free!

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My Talks on Two Difficult Topics

The two topics of Kazakhstan and human trafficking are difficult to talk about.  The first is because not many people have heard of Kazakhstan or know where it is. The second, well, trafficking is such an awful truth about people being exploited that we’d just as soon remain ignorant.  I have given presentations on these two subjects that are close to my heart at least seven times in the last year.

Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, land mass wise but it only has a population of about 16 million people.  That would be a good reason why not many Americans have ever heard of Kazakhstan. Not many Kazakhs to promote their own homeland, they are often confused with Russia but look Asian.  But they are NOT to be confused with the Chinese either. They are a proud people with a long and colorful history; their language of Kazakh has Turkish roots.

However, the Kazakhs were subjected to much cruelty under the former Soviet Union’s reign of 70 years. A third of their land was used as a penal colony for “Enemies of the People”…think gulags and Siberia and you have an idea of what Stalin thought of Kazakhstan. This beautiful land was Stalin’s dump ground of castoffs from many different countries of the former Soviet Union who didn’t fit the Soviet mold. Many of these so-called “enemies” were highly intelligent, talented and gifted. Think Solzhenitzen who spent some “jail” time in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhs were traditionally nomadic and moved their cattle, horses and sheep from pasture to pasture depending on the seasons.  When the communist elites from Moscow came in, they purposely dismantled and disrupted centuries of traditions and proclaimed the land would be used for farming instead.  Eventually they found out that the Kazakh land could not sustain agriculture, if only the Moscow elites had listened to the agronomists who knew better.

Some North Dakotans already know, Angus cattle are being shipped to Kazakhstan now to once again graze the steppes.  I heard from one woman the other night that the Kazakhs are flying over North Dakota cattlemen to help show Kazakh herdsmen how to take care of these expensive investments.  Many impregnated Angus cows and their calves had died from the initial shipment because there is much to know in keeping them alive.  Of course, the original Kazakh used to know all this about breeding cattle and herding, unfortunately that knowledge was drummed out of them by the Soviet system.

As an educator, I was far removed from anything having to do with agriculture or cattle breeding since I taught for 3 ½ years in both capital cities of Almaty and Astana.  The former capital of Almaty was in the south close to the Kyrgyzstan border, the new capital of Astana as of ten years ago is more centrally located to the north.  In my talks I try to impress on my audience the construction of elaborate, eccentric buildings which are going up with great speed (not accuracy) in the gleaming new capital city of Astana. These edifices are meant to impress foreign dignitaries who come for short state visits with the president of the country. Regrettably these important foreign guests never see beyond the borders of the glitzy cities of Almaty and Astana.  The countryside is a well kept secret that could gain much from tourism except that Kazakhstan is just so far away and difficult to get to.

How did I get involved in my interest in human trafficking? I tell my audiences about how I often saw many sour faced men look out their bus windows as they were being transported through the city to their construction sites.  I know now I was probably looking at a busload of slaves from other countries who were helpless to escape their forced servitude.  They may have come from countries like Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan or even Russia and had their passports and documents taken from them as soon as they arrived. Perhaps the threat of being in Kazakhstan illegally kept them silenced. Sadly they had been promised good paying jobs to support their families back home but under their Turkish bosses, they were stripped bare of their freedoms.

Human trafficking is becoming a huge problem or at least my awareness of it has become larger. As much as I would prefer to quit giving talks and making other people more knowledgeable on these two subjects, I keep coming back to the simple fact that no one knows what I know, seen what I’ve seen, or care about those people who are so far away who have gotten themselves in complicated situations.  I keep hearing new stories that are not meant to shock me or break my heart, but they do anyway.  The cruelty of man against man or man against woman continues in different forms such as slaves working in tobacco and cotton plantations, child soldiers, building construction, forced marriages, prostitution, pornography, surrogate maternity, transplantation of organs.

So whatever is going on in the rest of the world fits the Minnesota statute that defines what human trafficking really is: “The recruiting, transportation, harboring or receipt of a person by any means for the purpose of forced labor, slavery, commercial sexual exploitation or other practices similar to slavery.”  [Minnesota Statute 609.281 subd. 5, 2009] The problem is that we have some of these same problems going on in Minnesota and North Dakota, not just in a far off place in Central Asia.

Many statistics can report the same things in different ways but I’ve heard that Minnesota is ranked 10th or 13th in the U.S. for harboring slaves because we have the interstates from TX to Duluth (port city). We also enjoy the speed of travel along our other ribbon of interstate from east to west on I-94.  North Dakota and South Dakota share an interstate on Minnesota’s western border with I-29 making Fargo a hub where traffickers can transact speedy deliveries of their “merchandise.”  Minnesota has rural, out of the way places where illegals can be hidden but we also have the cosmopolitan city of Minneapolis and St. Paul with the diversity of cultures.

That is why any profit made with the sales of “Card-Again” cards after my 30-minute presentations go to “Not For Sale, Minnesota.” They know where to give that money to the shelters in the Twin Cities for victims of trafficking.  We have already given over one thousand dollars to two different shelters in Kazakhstan that was raised last fall by women at my church.  Almost two thousands dollars of donations and profits from my church and sales of cards have been channeled to the “Not For Sale” organization which was started five years ago in the San Francisco area.

Finally, there is something caring people can do besides donating cards to be recycled into “Card-Again” cards or buying these cards or gift bags, they can become more aware on a grassroots level to be more proactive to help those slaves who have no voice or power to free themselves.  Everyone can be a modern-day “abolitionist” if they have a big enough heart to bring about more education and awareness.  Here is an opportunity in the Twin Cities:

Not For Sale, Minnesota has been asked to host a Backyard Abolitionist Academy (www.backyardacademy.org). Basically, this is a mini-version of the academies they put on in San Francisco. It’s great because it allows those who cannot travel to California a chance to get educated on some very important topics. The Academy will be August 16-18 and will feature 4 tracks: Strategic Investigation, Just Market Supply-Chains, Innovative Aftercare and Proactive Faith Communities. Participants will be able to choose two of the four tracks. The cost to register is $129, but students and early registrants (before June 15) will only pay $99.

[A side note, I haven’t meant to offend anyone in Kazakhstan but apparently this blogsite has been blocked from any followers in Kazakhstan being able to read my updates.  Let me know if this is just an isolated incident because several people I know in Astana are not able to access this blog. ???]

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Hope in Kazakhstan’s Education, BUT What About Human Trafficking?

I was hopeful about Kazakhstan’s future when I taught in university classrooms in both Almaty and Astana.  Want to see a funny video clip where I worked for 2 ½ years in Almaty? Next, is a promo clip meant to impress about the NEW university in Astana where I taught for one year. Hard to believe it was a year ago that I was in Astana, but I still recognize many of the young Kazakh students. I LOVED teaching these energetic, serious, fun loving students in both cities. Little did I know that some of the new buildings we were privileged to work in were probably built by exploited people from other countries.

As you can tell with my blog over the last year, I’m more interested in the International Organization of Migration and the progress they are making in countries like Kazakhstan. Supposedly, according to this link, Kazakhstan is fifth on the list for victims assisted.  That’s a testimony to the work done to help those migrated victims trapped into being trafficked into Kazakhstan for manual labor or sexual exploitation.  The data shows that in 2011 Kazakhstan assisted 265 victims.

Just the other day I read and found very interesting that Kazakhstan’s Ministry person responsible for building and construction in Kazakhstan is the husband of one of the daughters of the president of this country of Kazakhstan. But here’s a news flash I got yesterday, another daughter of the president, Dariga, is responsible for Migration of people into Kazakhstan.  That should mean that trafficking will receive a higher priority from the Kazakh government. Let’s certainly hope so!

Maybe all the money the Kazakh government is paying former Prime Minister Tony Blair is paying off. Kazakhstan needs help from Blair to clean up its image (i.e. honoring contracts and not doing shady business with other countries who bring in these “slaves” to do the manual labor.) Some construction workers in Astana are paid very little, if anything at all.

The American Embassy website about Kazakhstan’s involvement on stopping human trafficking shared the following info about last year’s activities.

Trafficking in Persons Report 2011: Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is a destination and to a lesser extent, source and transit country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking and for men, women, and children subjected to conditions of forced labor. Kazakhstani women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Greece, Indonesia, and Israel. Women and girls from Uzbekistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Moldova, and Ukraine are subjected to sex trafficking in Kazakhstan. Women and girls from rural Kazakhstan are subjected to sex trafficking in urban areas of the country. Kazakhstani men, women, and children as well as men from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, and Nigeria are subjected to conditions of forced labor in domestic service, cattle breeding and pasturing and also in the harvest of tobacco and cotton in Kazakhstan.

The Government of Kazakhstan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government significantly decreased the use of forced child labor in the cotton harvest, increased law enforcement efforts against human trafficking, passed a law strengthening penalties for convicted child sex trafficking offenders, and increased victim identification. However, it failed to effectively screen migrants for potential victims of trafficking and only identified two foreign victims of labor trafficking, despite being a significant destination country for foreign victims of forced labor.

Recommendations for Kazakhstan: Increase efforts to identify foreign victims of both forced prostitution and forced labor, including through expanded training of police officers and government officials in victim identification and assistance; work to ensure that foreign victims of trafficking receive assistance; increase efforts to identify labor trafficking victims, including by ensuring that authorities screen for potential victims of forced labor among those detained during immigration raids and refer those identified as victims for assistance; investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of being complicit in trafficking and convict and punish any complicit officials; continue efforts to prevent the use of forced labor during the cotton and tobacco harvests; continue to increase the number of victims who receive government-funded assistance by increasing funding to anti-trafficking NGOs; conduct trafficking awareness campaigns aimed at reducing the demand for both labor trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation; and continue to strengthen the capacity of police, prosecutors and judges to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate trafficking cases.


Prosecution

The government of Kazakhstan demonstrated modest progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Kazakhstan prohibits trafficking in persons for both labor and sexual exploitation through Articles 128, 133, 125(3)(b), 126(3)(b), 270, and 132-1 of its penal code, which prescribe penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment – penalties sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Kazakhstan amended its penal code in 2010, adding Article 132-1 which strengthens punishments for child sex trafficking offenders. Police investigated 88 trafficking cases in 2010, a significant increase from 49 investigations in 2009. Authorities prosecuted 48 cases in 2010, compared with 35 prosecutions in 2009. A total of 32 trafficking offenders were convicted in 2010, an increase from 24 such convictions in 2009.  The government convicted 29 offenders for sex trafficking offences in 2010, an increase from 21 sex trafficking convictions in 2009, and convicted three offenders for forced labor offences in 2010, the same number as in 2009. Five convicted traffickers received parole and served no time in prison. Twenty-seven convicted offenders received sentences ranging from two to 14 years’ imprisonment. The Kazakhstani police, in cooperation with foreign donors, provided training in trafficking investigation techniques and victim identification procedures for 79 migration and criminal police officers and provided training for Kazakhstani law enforcement officers in Mongolia, Russia, Qatar, Turkey, Austria, the UAE, Belarus, and Armenia. It also provided in-kind assistance for NGO trainings for government officials. Police jointly investigated two trafficking cases with Russia and one with the UAE. Despite anecdotal reports of individual police officers complicit in trafficking and with close associations with traffickers, the government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking.

The government demonstrated efforts to address the allegations of forced child labor in the 2010 TIP Report. The South Kazakhstan oblast government – the region in Kazakhstan where the majority of cotton is grown – issued several directives that explicitly prohibited the use of child labor (including forced child labor) during the 2010 fall cotton harvest. The Department of Education also inspected local schools to ensure they were not closed by local officials during the cotton harvest. Labor inspectors conducted inspection checks of cotton and tobacco fields and found no evidence of forced labor. NGOs in the region reported that the use of forced child and forced adult labor decreased significantly from the previous year. There were no reports of government officials complicit in forced labor in the cotton or tobacco harvests in 2010; however, the government did not pursue any prosecutions or convictions of government officials complicit in forced labor in the cotton or tobacco harvests of 2009.

Protection

The Government of Kazakhstan made some progress in identifying and protecting trafficking victims in 2010; however, the government identified only one foreign labor trafficking victim, despite being a recognized destination for foreign victims of forced labor. Although migration police reported screening illegal migrants detained during immigration raids, these efforts did not result in the identification of any trafficking victims. In 2010, thousands of migrants were deported without being screened for potential victims of trafficking. In 2010, the government identified 82 victims of trafficking, including 13 victims of forced labor, compared with 59 victims of trafficking, including 12 labor trafficking victims, identified in 2009. Of those identified, nine were foreign victims, including two victims of forced labor, an increase from three foreign victims identified in 2009. The government provided funding in the amount of $ 70,000 for the provision of food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and other services for all identified victims; this was a decrease from the $84,000 in funding the government provided for the same purposes in 2009. In total, 134 trafficking victims, including 49 victims of forced labor, were assisted by IOM, privately funded NGOs, and government-funded programs in 2010. The government fully funds one NGO-run shelter for trafficking victims, which assisted 40 victims, including nine foreign victims, in 2010. The local government of Almaty partially funds another NGO-run shelter, which assisted 33 trafficking victims, including 18 foreign trafficking victims. Shelters are open to all trafficking victims and provide legal, psychological, and medical assistance; however, some foreign victims of trafficking are unable to access medical assistance due to a lack of health insurance or temporary residency permits. Adult trafficking victims were permitted to freely enter and leave the shelters. Some child trafficking victims were held in juvenile detention centers until they were cleared of charges. In 2010, the government adopted a measure that permitted victims of serious crimes, including trafficking victims, to receive government compensation. The government encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Foreign victims who agreed to cooperate with law enforcement were permitted to remain in Kazakhstan for the duration of the criminal investigation; this temporary residency status did not permit trafficking victims to work during the investigation. The government did not report how many foreign victims received temporary residence permits in 2010. The government did not offer victims longer-term residency; all victims were forcibly repatriated, either after a short recuperation period or after their service as a prosecution witness was completed. Although some victims cooperated with authorities during the initial investigation, some victims refused to testify in court for fear of retribution from traffickers. There were no reports of victims punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, unidentified victims may have been deported or prosecuted for immigration or other violations. Authorities provided one victim with repatriation assistance in 2010, a result of a joint investigation with law enforcement officials in the UAE.

Prevention

The government increased its prevention efforts during the reporting period, including an awareness campaign by local officials targeted at employers in the cotton or tobacco harvests. The government supported a number of anti-trafficking efforts, including at least 191 newspaper articles and 73 videos on human trafficking. The government ran anti-trafficking campaigns on passenger trains and a hotline for trafficking victims. NGOs received $64,200 from the national government and $11,800 from local governments for trafficking prevention activities, including a second trafficking hotline. This represents an overall increase from $63,000 provided to NGOs for prevention activities in 2009. The government provided in-kind contributions for a program designed to reduce demand for sex trafficking.

I’m still wondering how the American Peace Corps volunteers might have continued their work in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately the PCVs were quickly dispatched to leave the country hastily last fall.  There was a FREE labor force that was disbanded because supposedly the country of Kazakhstan is wealthy enough, they don’t need help like other third world nations do. Supposedly Kazakhstan does not need the stigma of having American PCVs come help and volunteer their time and effort anymore.  That was a sudden and non transparent move with Peace Corps decision to leave Kazakhstan so abruptly last fall.

Now I believe there will be even MORE internal migration going on where unsuspecting people from the rural areas of Kazakhstan (the vast country that it is) are being manipulated and used in human trafficking.  Promised a salary to do manual labor but once in the big city, things change.  I don’t know what goes on in the farming areas where tobacco and cotton need to be planted and harvested. However, during my 3 1/2 years in two big cities, I saw a LOT of manpower go into making Astana, Kazakhstan appear very impressive.  “You can’t always judge a book by its cover.” or “You can’t judge a university by its shiny, new building structure.”

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Escaped Trafficked Men are Thankful for Donated Clothes

 

This photo shows men who were slaves in Kazakhstan and who had escaped their “forced servitude” about two years ago. When I lived in Almaty and Astana, I would see men going to their work sites looking somberly out their bus windows. They wore heavily padded jackets to keep the cold of Astana out, but the coldness of Kazakhstan’s hearts towards these men who had believed in empty and false promises rubbed them raw.

I remember one Russian looking man on the sidewalk near Baiterek had started to approach me when I had first moved to Astana in Feb of 2010. He looked all bloodied up on his face but since I don’t have a good grasp of Russian, I moved across the street to avoid talking to him. Obviously he needed help and that scenario still haunts me, he may have been an escaped trafficked manual laborer.

Difficult to tell what nationality these men in the photo are because as they were covering their faces with the donated clothes they were trying on. After what they have been through, they do NOT want to be slaves again.  Keeping their identity secret so they can go back to their home country to be with friends and family again was probably uppermost in their mind.  Of course, they had their documents taken from them once they had entered Kazakhstan and they were afraid of the authorities probably not knowing any Russian or Kazakh.  This is the nature of the beast, to find vulnerable victims who are desperate in their poverty and wanting to earn money to send back home to their impoverished families.

I remember talking to one Norwegian woman who was married to an American. He was an electrician or technical assistant to one of the Turkish firms building a complex in Almaty.  He noted that many of the men who worked alongside him were not being paid for months on end.  He brought it up with his superiors and they told him to mind his own business. A conspiracy of silence continues because there are language barriers and multiple nationalities putting up the buildings in Kazakhstan and others are financing them.

Manual labor is definitely needed in Astana, Kazakhstan particularly. That is why I focus on “human trafficking” and NOT sex trafficking.  I witnessed men being used and working in miserable conditions. However, this New York Times article  by Nicholas Kristof was alarming revealing what is going on with sex trafficking on the Internet.  I would suspect that manual labor and finding men out in the boondocks would not be put on an Internet page. I think these traffickers have to actually go out to the Kyrgyz villages and drum up their business, face to face.

I’d be interested to find an article about what men go through once they come out of their prison of despair and hard work.

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