Bolat Atabayev

Kazakhstani theater director and former political prisoner

Asia-Pacific and South Asia

Bolat Atabayev is a Kazakhstani theater director and human rights defender. Atabayev was arrested by national security after supporting a peaceful strike of oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan in 2011. In December 2011, when the protests erupted in a violent confrontation with the police, resulting in at least 14 deaths, Atabayev was accused of giving an inflammatory speech preceding the clashes. In June 2012, Atabayevwas arrested outside his home by officers of the National Security Committee on charges of “incitement of social enmity” and “exhortation for the forcible overthrow or change of the constitutional order.” While in prison, he was beaten and initially denied access to a lawyer. After human rights groups and Oscar-winning German Filmmaker Volker Schlondorff launched an international campaign for his release, Atabayev was freed in July 2012, and all charges against him were dropped. Since his release, Atabayev and his theater group—Aksaray—continue to stage performances critical of the Nazarbayev regime.

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