Kazakhstan: Aron Atabek’s whereabouts disclosed

English PEN was relieved to learn that the whereabouts of imprisoned poet Aron Atabek have reportedly been disclosed and that the two-year solitary confinement sentence against him has been quashed

In 2012, Aron Atabek was sentenced to serve two years in solitary confinement in Arkalyk Prison following the publication of his book, The Heart of Eurasia, a work that is highly critical of the Kazakh government. Since August 2013, PEN has been campaigning for Atabek to be removed from solitary confinement and placed in a prison within reasonable visiting distance of his family.

On 5 October 2013, we received reports that Atabek had been moved out of Arkalyk Prison. His family had received no notice of the move from the Kazakh authorities, and Atabek – in a direct violation of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners – was not permitted to notify his family of the transfer. Despite numerous attempts by Atabek’s son to find out the exact location of his father, the Penal System Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs repeatedly refused to confirm Atabek’s whereabouts for over a month.

Yesterday, 6 November, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that the ‘missing’ poet had finally been located:

Jailed Kazakh dissident Aron Atabek, whose whereabouts were unknown for several weeks, has been located in his old penal colony in the central Qaraghandy region.

Atabek’s son said that his father has been returned to the labor camp in the town of Qarazhal from a tougher prison in the northern Qostanai region. Kazakhstan’s Bureau for Human Rights said the Qostanai Prosecutor’s Office had annulled last year’s decision by the Qarazhal Town Court to transfer Atabek to a harsher prison for two years for his refusal to follow penitentiary regulations.

For the full article, please visit Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

We would like to thank everyone who took action on behalf of Aron Atabek: PEN’s lobbying efforts and messages of support have been a great source of comfort to him and his family, as his son Askar Aidarkhan describes in this letter.

If you would be interested in sending a message of support to Atabek and his family, please email your message to cat@englishpen.org and we will pass it on.


Aron Atabek is the first writer at risk to be featured in the brand new ‘Ambit Action’ initiative, a collaboration with the team at Ambit Magazine to help raise greater awareness of some of our cases of concern and their work.

Head over to their website now to read Atabek’s poem ‘My Throat Will Die‘, translated by Niall McDevitt and Alfia Nakipbekova.

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

2 Comments on “Kazakhstan: Aron Atabek’s whereabouts disclosed”

  1. UPDATE (12 November 2013): Despite these recent developments, Aron Atabek’s family have still not had any contact with the imprisoned poet. Whilst we welcome the news that Atabek is no longer being held in isolation we continue to urge the Kazakh authorities to confirm his whereabouts and allow him regular contact with his family.


  2. UPDATE (7 January 2014): There have been some welcome developments in the case of imprisoned Kazakh poet Aron Atabek. In late 2013, Atabek was removed from solitary confinement and placed in a maximum security prison in Karazhal. Shortly afterwards, his lawyer confirmed that he would be transferred to a minimum security jail closer to his family. In December, Atabek’s son Askar was allowed to visit his father for the first time in two years. He has since told PEN that his father looked ‘ok’ and that they had talked about the support that he had received from around the world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *