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Kazakh Inmates Maim Themselves To Protest Prison Conditions

A picture has circulated on social media showing a man identified as Uzynzhasov with what appears to be his abdomen punctured with a metal stick.

QYZYLORDA, Kazakhstan -- Five inmates at a prison in southern Kazakhstan have maimed themselves to protests conditions there.

Relatives of the prisoners told RFE/RL on August 11 that the men hurt themselves "to protest the pressure and humiliation" they face at Correctional Colony ZS-169/5 in the city of Qyzylorda.

Officials at the prison, however, rejected those claims, saying the men were opposed to the routine searches carried out at the prison for banned items.

According to the relatives, the five men are Abai Uzynzhasov, Berik Berdeshov, Mengilik Beibitov, Murat Usenov, and Baqytzhan Esenbaev.

A picture has circulated on social media over the past 24 hours showing a man identified as Uzynzhasov with what appears to be his abdomen punctured with a metal stick.

Uzynzhasov's wife, Ayagoz Nauasheva, told RFE/RL that her husband's picture was taken on August 10, adding that it was the second time he had hurt himself in recent days.

"My husband managed to send me a message, saying that he has no other way than to maim himself in order to be transferred to another prison as the administration of the penal colony he is now at has been humiliating him for a long time," Nauasheva said.

When he punctured himself with a long nail the first time, the prison administration refused to take him to a regular hospital outside the prison. They just took the nail out of his body and gave him some pills."

Relatives of Berdeshov and Beibitov told RFE/RL that they learned about the two men's ordeal from other inmates, but the penal colony's administration had refused to provide them with any information about them.

Last month, noted Kazakh activist Erzhan Elshibaev, who was recognized by domestic human rights groups as a political prisoner and is serving a five-year term in that prison, cut open his abdomen to protest prison conditions and what he called "provocative" attempts by the prison's officials to prevent his release on parole.

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