Kazakhstan has officially refused to grant citizenship to three ethnic Kazakhs who fled China's northwestern region of Xinjiang for illegally entering the country as they fled persecution.
Qaisha Aqan, Murager Alimuly, and Kaster Musakhanuly are three of several ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang residing in Kazakhstan after they were convicted for illegally crossing the Chinese-Kazakh border in recent years, but later given temporary refugee status in October 2020.
Locked Up In China: The Plight Of Xinjiang's Muslims
Radio Free Radio/Radio Liberty is partnering with its sister organization, Radio Free Asia, to highlight the plight of Muslims living in China's western province of Xinjiang.
Aqan told RFE/RL on May 23 that she had received a letter signed by Deputy Interior Minister Arystangali Zapparov that said they would not be granted citizenship because their place of permanent residence was outside Kazakhstan before they were convicted of illegally crossing the border.
The three have insisted that they fled China fearing they would be placed in so-called reeducation camps for indigenous ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
In January, Aqan and Alimuly were both violently attacked in the Central Asian country by unknown assailants in separate incidents in different cities.
The U.S. State Department has said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim, ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers.
China denies that the facilities are internment camps.
Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs.
The region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans.