Police and bulldozers repelled by shanty town residents
“Shanyrak in flames”
At 10.30 am, on 5 April, a battalion of police, backed up by ‘rapid response’ riot police, the KNB (former KGB) agents, the City Procurer, fire fighters, and bailiffs, turned up at the Shanyrak district of Alma-Ata city, to raze to the ground the homes of landless residents.
The operation was prepared secretly and counted on surprise for success. Surrounding several quarters, and with bulldozers, the police attempted to begin the demolition of homes. But dozens of women and pensioners, along with members from the Almata Workers’ Movement and Socialist Resistance (CWI), surrounded the vehicles and prevented them from moving. The protesters’ aim was to gain time, to gather opposition forces.
The Alma-Ata City authorities are determined to destroy the homes of settlers who have built poor but dignified living quarters on the outskirts of the city. Many of those who live in Shanyrak were driven out of their last homes by the collapse of industry in Kazakhstan, in the early and mid-nineties. With nowhere else to live, they moved to Shanyrak, and used old and second hand building materials to build modest homes in formerly uninhabited regions of the city. Now the Alma-Ata City authorities want the land, to build ‘entertainment complexes’ and elite flats for Kazakhstan’s ‘new rich’.
100s of protesters flood to Shanyrak
But the Shanyrak residents’ determination to fight back, on 5 April, meant the city authorities would not get away with this barbaric act. When the bulldozers moved in to Shanyrak, the press and TV soon turned up, as did people from neighbouring areas. Within an hour, hundreds of protesters flooded to the conflict zone. Women and children lay down in front of the bulldozers. Young men attempted to drag drivers out of the bulldozer cabins. Although the police tried to constantly tear people away, by 12 o’clock the drivers announced they were not prepared to go on. Then the authorities became desperate. They attempted to release a work-gang from a neighboring prison camp, giving the prisoners instructions to destroy the Shanyrak residents’ homes. But even though they were threatened with truncheons, the prisoners refused to do the police’s dirty work.
Conflict lasts hours
The conflict lasted for hours. There was open conflict between, on the one side, the residents, activists from the Workers’ Movement, Socialist Resistance, and other organizations, and, on the other side, the police. The police tried to drag individuals out from the crowd – but each time the crowd counter-attacked. In all, about 15 people, mainly young, were detained by police. Several were hurt. Plainclothes agents ran around, trying to identify key activists. One approached Sakhib Zhanabaeva (a pensioners’ leader) and asked if she was a member of Socialist Resistance (CWI), and, if not, could she point them out. Other people were checked for their ID documents. Ainur Kurmanov, a well-known Socialist Resistance member in Alma-Ata, was held under siege all day. As he tried to leave his home in the morning, his path was blocked by several police cars, with the occupants sneering at him.
By one o’clock, the disputed quarters where completely surrounded by police and no-one was allowed to go near the area. Bailiffs, backed by squads of riot police, attempted to break through the crowd, but with no success. By this time, all the bulldozer drivers, and other workers brought along by the police, refused to act against residents, and fire crews refused to use water-hoses against the crowd. After four hours of battle, and huge efforts by the police, the authorities only got to one house. It was left to a group of bailiffs, dressed in smart suits, to pick up sledge hammers and to wreck the house.
This was the house of Korlan Dolybayeva and Vladimir Kokhimova, who have six children and three grandchildren living with them. Now they have no idea where they will live. For now, neighbours are helping them out. Korlan Dolybayeva and Vladimir Kokhimova don’t understand what is happening. Kairat, one of their neighbours, spoke for many Shanyrak residents: “We have built everything here at our own expense. We don’t ask anything off of the state – why are they doing this to us? We have nowhere to go; we have small children, grandchildren. We were making this into a nice area, we only needed more time. Why do they do this? We are Kazakhs. We want to live in a nice area – give us time, we are planting trees. This will be a good area.”
A struggle against Nazabayev regime
But it is already clear that the Mayor of Alma-Ata, Imangali Nasmagambetov, is desperate to clear Shanyrak and other areas. However, thanks to the campaign by Shanyrak residents, and Socialist Resistance (CWI), there are now reports in the Kazakhstan media defending the people of Shanyrak. Everyday, the Alma-Ata City authorities get messages of protest from CWI supporters across the world, and also from other organisations. The Alma-Ata Mayor is under enormous pressure. He has to report to President Nazarbayev that he has the situation “under control”, to assure building contractors that they can soon move in to build facilities for the elite on the razed Shanyrak homes.
But the “source of instability”, as the local bureaucrats refer to Shanyrak residents, can no longer be brushed under the carpet. The Shanyrak residents and their supporters are bravely fighting back. And it is no longer a local conflict.
The Shanyrak struggle reveals the real, brutal nature of the Nazarbayev regime, which defends the interests of the property speculators. Public opinion in Kazakhstan is turning against the Ama-Ata city authorities. The struggle for the streets of Shanyrak is a struggle against the regime and its bandit-capitalist supporters. We need to do everything we can to defend the Shanyrak homes and to aid the residents’ courageous opposition.
Urgent solidarity action needed!
Please act urgently to help struggle of the Shanyrak residents. Send protests to the Mayor of Alma-Ata, demanding:
- All attempts to evict the resident of Shanyrak are immediately stopped
- An end to the repression of all activists
- Alma-Ata city resources to be allocated to build decent homes for Shanyrak residents and all shanty town dwellers
- An end to political repression of Sotsialisticheskoe soprotivleniye (Socialist Resistance- CWI – in Kazakhstan) activists
Send protest letters and faxes to:
Administration of the City Akim (Mayor)
050000 Republic of Kazakhstan,
Ploshad Respubliki dom 4,
Akimat, Akimu Imangali Tasmagambetovu
Telephone: +7 3272 716557
Fax: +7 3272 934710
Or email protests, via the Akim’s (Mayor’s) website: www.almaty.kz (email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Please send copies of letters and emails sent, to: email@example.com. And: firstname.lastname@example.org. (They will be translated into Kazhak, and distributed to the Shanyrak residents)
For more information in Russian, visit the Socialist Resistance (CWI Kazakhstan) website: http://kazakhstan.socialism.ru/