PEN International is deeply concerned by news that the poet and social activist Aron Atabek has been transferred from a high security prison in the city of Arkalyk to another as yet unknown prison.

Take Action

Write a letter: Your voice matters. Use the information below to write and send a letter.

Spread the word: The simplest and most effective response to censorship is to spread the word. Use the social media tools below to share this page and get the word out.

Background Information

In 2012, 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 International has been campaigning for Atabak to be removed from solitary confinement and placed in a prison within reasonable visiting distance of his family.

In early October 2013, Atabek’s family received an anonymous telephone call informing them that the poet was to be transferred to Karazhal Prison in the Kargandy region. The family says that they did not receive any communication from Atabek or from the prison authorities regarding this move.

Since receiving the anonymous telephone call, Atabek’s son has made several attempts to discover his father's location. He has contacted the prison administration numerous times, asking for confirmation that Atabek is now being held in Karazhal Prison.  However, on each occasion, the prison authorities have refused to give him this information.

We understand that the prison administration was recently contacted by a local Kazakh human rights organization, and that it was confirmed that Atabek left Arkalyk Prison on October 5, 2013, but that details of his current whereabouts were withheld.  Atabek’s family is very worried.

The United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted in 1955 by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, clearly states that every prisoner must have the right to inform his family at once of his imprisonment or transfer within the prison system. Kazakhstan has clearly violated this rule by denying Mr. Atabek the opportunity to inform his family of his transfer.

Today, a letter signed by Marian Botsford Fraser, the Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee, was sent to Kazakhstan’s Minister for Internal Affairs, who is responsible for prisons, demanding that Aron Atabek’s family be notified immediately of the exact location of the imprisoned poet.

For More Information

Aron Atabek's letter from prison
A Prison within a Prison: the Solitary Confinement of Kazakh Poet Aron Atabek, by Cathal Sheerin

Write A Letter

  • To the Minister of Internal Affairs, urging him to immediately release details of Aron Atabek’s whereabouts to his family;
  • Raising these concerning new developments in Aron Atabek’s case with your country’s ambassador to Kazakhstan.

Send Your Letter To

Kalmukhanbet Kassymov
Minister of Internal Affairs
Ministy of Internal Affairs
Tauelsizdik Avenue, 1
010000 Astana
Republic of Kazakhstan

Please copy appeals to your country's embassy in Kazakhstan in your country if possible.