Call to Action: Kazakhstan – Prison Authorities Denying Medical Treatment to Jailed Poet

Update No 7 to call to action of 5 August 2013

Aron Atabek at Almaty city court in 2007
Aron Atabek at Almaty city court in 2007

PEN International is deeply concerned at reports that the Kazakh prison authorities are denying medical treatment to the imprisoned poet, Aron Atabek. The 61-year-old poet is reportedly suffering intense spine and leg pain due to injuries sustained during an assault by a police officer in 2006. According to Atabek’s son, the poet’s left leg is now so swollen at the knee that he cannot bend it and he is finding it very difficult to walk. His pleas to be examined by a doctor, he says, have been refused. He has also been denied the use of a cane as a walking aid. PEN International calls on the Kazakh authorities to provide immediate medical care to Aron Atabek and to comply with the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which state that a prisoner complaining of ill health must be examined on a daily basis by a prison medical officer.

In December 2012 (whilst in prison on other charges), Atabek was sentenced to two years’ solitary confinement in a maximum security jail – 1,600km away from his family – for writing The Heart of Eurasia, a book that fiercely criticised President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

PEN campaigned for Atabek’s release from solitary detention and for his transfer to a prison within reasonable visiting distance of his family in the city of Almaty. In October 2013, Atabek was moved out of solitary confinement and was placed in a detention centre nearer to his family, allowing his son to visit him for the first time in almost two years. However, in March 2014, Atabek was moved once again, this time to a prison in Pavlodar (1,400km from his family). According to his son, Atabek is being kept under 24 hour video surveillance.

For long periods of his incarceration, Atabek has been kept in extremely harsh conditions: he has been denied contact with his family, telephone calls, writing materials and access to natural light. For one month (October 2013), Atabek’s whereabouts were unknown to his family, due to the prison authorities’ refusal to confirm or deny that the poet had been moved to another prison.

In May 2014, PEN International, in collaboration with Article 19, made a submission to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of Kazakhstan in which we highlighted the harsh conditions in which Aron Atabek was being held and called on the Kazakh authorities to comply with the UN’s basic rules for the treatment of prisoners.

To learn more about the poet, journalist and human rights defender, Aron Atabek, please see our earlier calls to actions and updates.

To read a poem by Atabek, please see: My Throat Will Die

Take Action

Please write messages of support to Atabek in jail. He has already received a number of letters from PEN members, and, according to his son, these have helped maintain his morale;
Call on the Kazakh authorities to comply with the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners by providing Atabek with adequate medical attention;
    Urge the Kazakh authorities to transfer Atabek to a prison within reasonable visiting distance of his family;
Write to your ambassador to Kazakhstan and, if appropriate, your MEP, urging him/her to raise the issue of Atabek’s health (and lack of proper medical attention) with the Kazakh government;
Tweet: #Kazakhstan must provide jailed 61 yr old poet #AronAtabek with medical attention for his injuries @MVD_RK @pen_int


Prison Address:

Учреждение АП-162/1, 140000, г. Павлодар, ул.Циолковского б\н.

Uchrezhdenie АП-162/1, zip-code: 140000, Pavlodar city, Tsiolkovskogo street b/n

President of Kazakhstan
President Nursultan Nazarbayev
President’s Office,
010000 Astana
Fax: +7 7172 559338

Minister of Internal Affairs
Kalmukhanbet Kassymov
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Tauelsizdik Avenue, 1
010000 Astana
Republik of Kazakhstan

(Please copy your letters to the President and Minister of Internal Affairs to the Kazakh ambassador to your country)

You can find your ambassador to Kazakhstan here:

You can find your MEP here:

Note to PEN Centres: Please keep us informed of any action you take in regard to Aron Atabek’s case.

For further details contact Cathal Sheerin at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER UK Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: