How a pleasant evening turned very, very ugly11 march 2012, 18:17
It started out pleasantly enough with a friend’s request to get together, but it ended up being one of the ugliest evenings I’ve spent in Kazakhstan.
All because of a guy who was impersonating a police officer.
My friend Olessya had called me during the day to ask if I could give her advice about a family matter. Could I meet her at 8:30 p.m. at Artem Bazaar, she asked.
I was there, and we discussed the matter quickly, then decided to leave.
I walked with her to the curb of Seyfullina Street in front of the bazaar to put her in a taxi.
I asked her in English if she needed taxi fare, and we exchanged a few other words in English.
As she was negotiating a fare with a taxi driver, another guy literally came out of the shadows to demand that she show him her domestic-passport ID card.
Oleyssa was as startled as I was by this, and we both asked him: Who are you? Although my tone was much angrier and my voice much louder than Oleyssa’s.
“I’m a police officer,” said the man, who was in plainclothes, not a uniform.
“I want to see your badge,” Olessya responded.
The man showed her what might or might not have been a badge for a second or two, then put it back in his pocket. It was dark and neither Olessya nor I could discern whether it was a badge or not.
The man asked again for Olessya’s ID, and she gave it to him, saying nothing.
Not me. I began bellowing like a bull, demanding why he was asking for her ID. When he ignored me, I began heaping verbal abuse on him, trying to provoke a reaction.
Why? Because I was convinced from the start that he was not a police officer, that he was a thug who had a sinister motive for approaching Olessya.
Olessya is a tall, 22-year-old, fresh-faced beauty with black hair and green eyes, and I believe this is why the guy approached her.
I felt my gut tighten as the thought struck me that this guy would next ask her to get in his car to “go to the police station,” and she would be taken somewhere and raped.
I was determined not to let her go anywhere with the guy unless I were going, too.
The guy grabbed his mobile and either made a call to someone or faked a call. He asked the person at the other end of the call – if it was a call -- to check her ID number to see if her passport was valid.
Within seconds, he told her the ID was valid and she could go.
As a journalist, I’ve seen police use phones to make ID checks with their headquarters, and these calls take more than just a few seconds. That’s why I believe the call was faked.
I couldn’t let this guy make a quick exit without feeling some pain. So I continued to heap verbal abuse on him as he walked away, trying to provoke a reaction.
If he had really been a cop, at the very least he would have responded to my provocation by asking for my passport and immigration papers, and demanding to know who I was.
He never did. He scurried off as quickly as a rat that has seen a cat bearing down on him.
Given what had just happened, I didn’t say goodbye to Olessya until she was safely in a taxi.
Walking the 10 minutes from the bazaar to the Beerhoff restaurant on Kenesary Street allowed me to calm down a little.
But I kept thinking over and over again about what had happened. One thing I thought about was the guy’s timing.
I live near the bazaar, and I know that many of the shops in it close between 8 and 9 at night. It was no coincidence, I believed, that the guy was there when many of the women shopkeepers were leaving.
It was a great time for a sexual predator.
I also reflected on how glad I was to have been with Olessya when this incident occurred. In fact, I shuddered to think of what would have happened to her if I hadn’t been.
When I got to Beerhoff, I told my friends Jake and Dauren and three of Dauren’s women friends what had happened.
“Do you think the guy was a cop?” I asked.
All four of the Kazakhs said they were certain he wasn’t an undercover cop, but a thug.
When I got home an hour later, I realized I hadn’t asked the victim of the evening’s sordid encounter – Olessya – whether she had thought the man was a cop.
“I don’t believe he was,” she said in a mobile message. “This was very bad. A horrible man. I know.”
I thought about another cop impostor I had heard about in Almaty a couple of years before. My friend Zhenya had told me an 18-year-old Kazakh girlfriend of hers had left a nightclub about 1 a.m. when a man approached.
The man told her he was a police officer and she would have to come with him. He took her in his car to an apartment where he and six other men gang-raped her.
The victim is still in counseling.
As I thought how close Olessya had come to a similar fate that evening, I got angry all over again.
I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I tossed and turned as I replayed in my mind the events of that ugly evening and about how much evil there is in the world.