This month, my organization became involved in a tragic but important legal case brought to the South Kazakhstan Regional Court. The defendant, a girl named Dilfuza, was walking home with her friend and nephew on October 1, 2009 in the Saryagash area about an hour from Shymkent. They were offered a ride by one of Dilfuza’s acquaintances and two of his friends, but were not brought home — instead, Dilfuza and her friend were brutally beaten and gang raped by the three men in a Saryagash hotel, in front of her 5-year-old nephew.
Though local police and a South Kazakhstan Oblast prosecutor obtained evidence of the rape and beating and brought the case to court, the criminal trial held on April 12, 2010 at the Saryagash District Court ended in the complete acquittal of the three men. At the time, Dilfuza was in the hospital for one of many suicide attempts, and her mother Khalida was locked out of the court room for the sentencing, citing “closed procedures.”
Only after professional psychological therapy in Almaty, Dilfuza revealed that she had been raped a second time on February 1, 2010. Two hired thugs kidnapped her in Saryagash, threatened her with armed weapons, and vowed to kill her entire family if they did not drop the charges against her abusers. One of the thugs then raped her. In the time leading up to her appeal trial, Dilfuza and her family were in turn threatened and offered money for silence by the original three men and their families.
Dilfuza’s mother wrote a desperate plea to President Nazarbayev asking him to intervene for justice on her daughter’s behalf. The letter found its way to the Central Asia Monitor
, where it was published online. From there, a miracle of the Internet happened — the President of the Association of Business Women (ABW) in Astana saw the news online, and discovered the appeal trial was set for June 8, 2010 in Shymkent at the Oblast-level court. She immediately called my director Kuralai here at the SKO branch of the ABW, and an entire movement was set in motion. My director, along with a coalition of human and women’s rights NGO leaders in South Kazakhstan, mobilized psychologists, lawyers, press, government leaders and local officials to assist with Dilfuza’s case. The action, titled “Dilfuza, We Are With You!” generated considerable PR and called for justice and an end to the silence and shame that victims of sexual violence face. The NGOs provided free psychological therapy services to Dilfuza and legal support to her and her mother in the appeal.
Finally, after a long, brave battle, the three rapists were brought to justice and sentenced to 8 years each in a penal colony prison by the SKO Regional Court of Appeals. Dilfuza will continue to be provided with free counseling services for as long as she needs them. She is also going to participate in my organization’s leadership and self-development trainings — I will be meeting her tomorrow.
Though the tragedy that happened to this young girl and her family is too great to express, Dilfuza and her mother have become an astounding example of courage and resilience against all odds. Since her case has come to public light, individuals from all around the country have come forward with their own stories of rape and sexual violence – crimes that went unspoken of or unpunished, hidden from the world until now. The unyielding effort of organizations in our area, including the amazing ladies I work for, is also an inspiration and proof that successful actions by NGOs here really can make a difference in the difficult circumstances of our region.
As far as I have seen, this case has not been reported yet in the Western media. The one English-language write-up I have found is this summary
from Stan TV. Here, however, are links to the three Central Asia Monitor articles (Khalida’s initial letter to Nazarbayev, an interview with Dilfuza, and Khalida’s letter of appreciation after the results of the appeal trial), along with my English-language translations: