Stateless children: a story of Timur and Sultan

Children without a nationality have limited access to basic rights

Women with children
UNICEF Kazakhstan/ Nazira Kaiymova
02 February 2021

Timur is a child without citizenship and a birth certificate. His mother did not have any identity documents and, therefore, Timur, who was born in Kazakhstan, was not given a birth certificate as citizens are. Now the state will not be able to provide any assistance to him - neither social, nor educational, nor legal.

In August 2020, Timur had a brother - Sultan. That time a four-month-old boy faced the same difficulties as his elder brother. The boys are deprived of many of the privileges that are available to citizens of Kazakhstan. To tell the story of the two brothers and surmise their future, one must start with the story of Zukhra, the mother of these children.

Zukhra Mukhamedova’s kitchen
UNICEF Kazakhstan/ Nazira Kaiymova

Several years ago, Zukhra illegally crossed the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. She was not alone, but together with a dozen of Lyuli. According to her, they were all allowed through with just one passport. Then she was carrying a child in her arms, her eldest son. In Kazakhstan, she gave birth to another child - a daughter.

One day the regional media were shocked by the news - a severely beaten five-year-old boy was admitted to the intensive care unit of a children's hospital. It was the eldest son of Zukhra. He, along with his mother and younger sister, fell into slavery. A local woman forced them to beg from passers-by and took all the small earnings for herself. Zukhra says that one day she went out with one child, and the next one with another.

Doctors at the regional children's hospital said that, according to the examinations, the boy was beaten with a rolling pin and cut with a knife. Zukhra’s eldest son was diagnosed with a closed craniocerebral injury, concussion, multiple body contusions and exhaustion.

After slavery, because of absence of documents custody of the children for some time was taken by the Centre for Adaptation of Minors in the city of Shymkent. However now Zukhra does not remember when she last saw her elder children and does not know their current location.

Zukhra Mukhamedova with her two children
UNICEF Kazakhstan/ Nazira Kaiymova
Zukhra Mukhamedova with her two children

Since their birth brothers Timur and Sultan as well as their mother Zukhra have experienced a lot. And now there is a chance that everything will fall into place

About five years ago, Zukhra met Mukhtar Mukhamedov and started to live with him as a civil wife in a small house in Shymkent. They had two more children - Timur and Sultan. The family lives below the poverty line, the children grow up in unsanitary conditions and there is no gas or water supply in the house.

“He [Timur] is already three years old now. He must go to school soon. And how can he do it without any papers?” - asks Zukhra's mother-in-law.

We learned the story of Zukhra from the legal centre of women's initiatives "Sana Sezim" NGO. Since 2016, a public organization has been helping stateless children in Shymkent and Turkestan region in migration processes. Having found herself in a difficult life situation, Zukhra turned to them for help. The NGO's lawyers helped her obtain the Sultan's birth certificate. After changes in legislative acts, medical institutions in Kazakhstan can register the birth of a child in the absence of migration documents or identification of the mother **.

“Since December 2017, UNICEF in partnership with the European Union has been assisting the Kazakhstani authorities and social services in identifying and documenting persons with undetermined citizenship. We are very glad, that thanks to our ongoing programme and “Sana Sezim” NGO’s assistance Zukhra could receive a certificate of a stateless person”, said Sven-Olov Carlsson, Ambassador of the European Union to Kazakhstan.

“She has a family here. We hope that after receiving the status of a stateless person, Zukhra will apply for citizenship of Kazakhstan. And then we will be able to assist her with the registration,” says Raushan Khudayshukurova, a representative of the “Sana Sezim”.

As soon as Zukhra receives the documents, Timur will be able to hope to receive his birth certificate. In the meantime, "Sana Sezim" helped the boy to get a place in kindergarten.

“During migration processes, the rights of every child must be protected. It is important to remember that migrant children are, first of all, children. Our joint programme with the European Union promotes dialogue between the governments of Central Asian countries and independent human rights organizations to create and strengthen systems for exchanging information between countries to track the whereabouts of family members and their reunification, stateless children, and monitoring the status of migrant children. I would also like to note that the programme continues to contribute to strengthening the national system for protecting the rights of children in Kazakhstan, ”said Arthur van Diesen, UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan.

Since their birth brothers Timur and Sultan as well as their mother Zukhra have experienced a lot. And now there is a chance that everything will fall into place - they will receive citizenship and all its privileges, which they have not had a chance to enjoy all these years.


* All names and other personally identifiable information have been changed to protect the privacy and safety of children.

** Additions dated 25 November, 2019 to Article 187 “Grounds for registering the birth of a child” of the Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated December 26, 2011 “On marriage (matrimony) and family”. More details:


The programme on protection of children affected by migration is funded by the European Union and implemented by UNICEF in seven countries in partnership with the governments of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Thailand. The goal of the programme is to enhance the system for effective protection of children affected by migration. Implementation period: 2017-2021.

This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNICEF Kazakhstan and do not necessarily reflect  the  views  of  the European Union.