One Criminal Case Dropped, One Remains – An Exclusive Interview with Serikzhan Bilash
First Published 04/02/2021
The founder of the Atajurt Human Rights group, Serikzhan Bilash was freed from jail in Kazakhstan in August 2019 after agreeing to a plea deal over ‘inter-ethnic incitement’ charges – this despite the UN concluding he was targeted for ‘exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association.’ ‘The interesting thing now is that since I’ve arrived in the US, the Kazakh Government have decided to close one of the criminal cases – case 174 - about “inciting hatred,” he told me.
‘My Life was in Danger All the Time’ - An Exclusive Interview with Serikzhan Bilash of the Atajurt Human Rights Group
First Published 13/01/2020
Facebook may be slow to deal with QAnon conspiracy theorists and their enablers, but if you run a human rights group, well, that’s a different matter. In the wake of the Facebook account of the Kazakhstani human rights organisation Atajurt which campaigns of behalf of those persecuted in Xinjiang being ‘permanently closed,’ I spoke exclusively with its founder. Serikzhan Bilash
Ethnic Kazakh Asylum Seekers from China Attacked in Kazakhstan – Exclusive Interview with Serikzhan Bilash
First Published 23/01/2021
In the wake of three separate attacks on ethnic Kazakh asylum seekers who fled from China which occurred simultaneously on Thursday, Serikzhan Bilash spoke to me from America, where he is meeting with media and researchers. Murager Alimuly is in a critical condition in hospital, whilst in the attack on Kaisha Akan, none of her personal effects were stolen.
Kazakhstan’s Repatriation of Foreign Fighters and Their Families
First Published 08/01/2020
As a major source of foreign fighters for the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Central Asia now faces the security and humanitarian challenge of repatriating these fighters and their families. Having repatriated over 700 of its citizens - mostly women and children - through ‘Operation Zhusan,’ Kazakhstan has emerged as a global leader in these efforts.
Tanna: The Isle of Curious Cults
First Published in Perceptive Travel, 01/08/2018
For the people of Vanuatu, magic is still very much a part of everyday life. In the world's most at-risk country for natural disasters, where a special type of stones are thought to cause earthquakes, men gather nightly under banyan trees the size of football pitches to drink kava - the liquid of a psychotropic root - and converse with their ancestors. On the isolated island of Tanna, the followers of a legendary visitor from the 1930s still wait for his return... and their promised riches.
Kazakh Authorities Address Case of Moukhtar Dzhakishev
First Published 18/04/2018
On the 16th of April 2018 in Almaty, the Kazakh government hosted foreign guests, including European parliamentarians, Human Rights activists and journalists to an event addressing the state of justice in the republic. High-profile cases on the agenda including those of Iskander Yerimbetov, Almat Zhumagulov, and Moukhtar Dzhakishev.The former Head of Kazatomprom and Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Dzhakishev is currently serving a fourteen years sentence for the theft of Kazatomprom property, receipt of bribes, embezzlement, fraud, involvement in organised crime and the abuse of power.
Sportsman Strongman - The Sporting Adventures of Asian Dictators
First published in 2014
Sporting success is a fillip to any government, but sometimes one needs to go further and enforce public participation. The logical next step, of course, is to become a sporting hero, to be that shining example to one’s people. This article traces the long, proud history of sporting triumphs achieved by sporting dictators’ and their families.
Video Commemorates Turkmenistan's "Disappeared"
First Published in EurasiaNet 26/11/2014
Kazakh Uzbek Summit concludes with veiled threats amidst fears over Afghanistan
First Published 25/11/2014
Rights Activists Knock on Uzbek Embassy’s Door, But Get No Answer
First Published in EurasiaNet 30/09/2014
Russia refuses to extradite crime lord Batukaev
First Published 25/09/2014
Russian Interior Ministry seizes 250 fake passports in raid on Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan cell
First Published 05/09/2014
The Fixer's Son: An Interview with Sousath Phetrasy
First Published in WSG
I met Sousath Phetrasy in Phonsavanh, a frontier town in Central Laos built during the late Seventies to replace the old provincial capital, which had been bombed out of existence during the secret war. Sousath ran a guesthouse, its walls decorated with a plethora of discarded munitions. As a child of the Communist insurgency’s top-brass, he'd been smuggled out of the country at a tender age, first becoming a gold smuggler and then an opium dealer. Despite growing up alone, however, Sousath still lived in the shadow of his father's actions during the conflict.
Luang Prabang and the Last of the Elephant Kings
First Published in WSG
Luang Prabang was the seat of a six-hundred-year-old dynasty, the Kingdom of the million elephants and the white parasol, centred upon the sacred and inviolable person of the King. The last of the Elephant Kings, Savang Vatthana and his hapless, haphazard entourage were taken captive in March 1977 by a Vietnamese-backed Communist movement that had been so long in the jungle that they no longer had any concept of who was important and who wasn’t. The King, his family and his cronies were never heard from again.