The Bishimbayev Trial: The Women of Kazakhstan Speak

The trial of the trial of former Minister of the Economy, Kuandyk Bishimbayev, has ignited discussions across Kazakhstan, particularly among women. Online actions and rallies across Europe have been organized in memory of the victim, Saltanat Nukenova, and the Senate has passed a law strengthening protections for women and children against domestic violence.

“The trial of Bishimbayev is the most vivid example of how power and impunity having taken the upper hand, eventually lead to terrible consequences, namely, brutal premeditated murder,” Darina, a 21-year-old woman from Astana told The Times of Central Asia. “A man who decided that he could do anything and nothing would happen for it, simply cut off the life of his wife. This case, which is now being watched by the whole world, is the most resonant and revealing in the history of justice in the country. Every second girl, looking at Bishimbayev, recognized her partner/husband, who is also physically or emotionally abusive towards her. All of them today want only one thing: a just solution that will encourage the government to create a law criminalizing domestic violence, give publicity to such a global and urgent problem, and inspire hope and faith in the hearts of those who experience similar things in their lives.”

“There’s not even anything worth saying, I’m just scared. So many similar stories happen all the time,” Kamila, a 27-year-old from Almaty told TCA.

“It’s very sad to see this, but on the other hand, it’s good that it’s got so much publicity; now the world can see what kind of attitude there is towards women in Kazakhstan.” Polina, a 20-year-old from Astana told TCA.

“When you watch these broadcasts, it’s scary to realize what is happening. It’s not only about domestic violence, but also how corruption is rampant. All the evidence is there, but the case is still dragging on.” Raushan from Almaty said.

“The trial is a subject of conversation with everyone I know every day. I can’t watch the live broadcast from the courtroom, because I can’t stand it. I think the court’s decision will have a big impact on the people of Kazakhstan and will show whether we have achieved something in 23 years of independence.” Merey, a 25-year-old from Kostanay told TCA.

“I’m very glad this case has such resonance, because if it wasn’t so high-profile and covered so extensively, most likely it would’ve been hushed up and he would’ve served a couple of years on parole. This case has emphasized the problem of violence against women in Kazakhstan, which happens on a regular basis at the hands of domestic tyrants,” Alua from Taraz told TCA.

Bishimbayev was dismissed from his post of Minister of the National Economy after less than eight months under former President Nazarbayev in December 2016. In September 2023, President Tokayev’s instructed parliament to draft new legislation increasing the penalties for domestic violence.

Seen in some quarters as a sign of a new openness, the televised trial has sparked a wave of debate across the nation, the like of which has rarely been seen before.


Times of Central Asia