Kazakhstan: Bakai shanty residents clash with police

Mass resistance stops homes demolition

On 12 May, a clash took place between residents and riot police in the Alma-Ata suburb of Bakai, when a police riot squad were sent in by the city’s authorities to clear away “illegal dwellings”. This is part of a programme by Alma-Ata’s authorities to clear away the homes of the poor in the city’s shanty town areas, to make way for big business developments for the rich.

The 100 police sent to help bailiffs do their dirty work in Bakai shanty town were met with resistance as soon as they attempted to smash up a house. As the police attempted to smash down a fence, they struggled to hold back 40 local residents, who poured out of their homes to resist. This determined and brave opposition forced the police back. The city authorities were forced agree that if the residents officially appealed against the decision to clear their homes away, the police siege on their homes would be lifted.

But, despite this promise, within the hour, the police, including forty riot police, moved on to try to demolish another Bakai home. One of the bailiffs admitted, “We have a plan today to remove eight homes”. For morale, the bailiffs felt they had to destroy at least one home! But on their second attempt, the bailiffs and police were met by over one hundred residents, including many young people and young mothers with children in their arms. Youths climbed on the roof of the house under threat, armed with clubs and bottles full of petrol, “Just in case”, they said.

The police had little success getting to the house. They waited for heavy vehicles to move in, but the residents approached the drivers and persuaded them not to act. The stand-off between police and residents lasted an hour and a half, in the blazing sun. The residents used the time to fruitfully “discuss and explain” the situation to the police. While this was going on, fire fighters put out a burning barricade set alight earlier. It was just like the Gaza Strip!

But attempts to persuade the police proved fruitless. At 14.30 hrs, the police stormed the house they wanted to destroy. The residents resisted by all means at their disposal – rocks were flying everywhere – but, by this time, over 200 police were involved. The riot police went in with truncheons flying and several residents were hurt. The police also sent a group to try and clear the youth off the roof, who responded with flying sticks and by pouring petrol over the police. Neither this nor the fact that there were little children in the home under police attack, held the authorities back. Protesters called the police “fascists” and demanded, “Land to the people!” Protesters were badly wounded by the police. Dozens ended up with minor injuries.

Police withdraw

At 16 00 hrs, the police gave up. They announced they were withdrawing and would not return the next day. More than 200 residents cheered in celebration. Just to make sure the police understood how unwelcome they were, small children ran behind them, throwing sand and stones.

As soon as the police left, a meeting to discuss further tactics was held by residents and supporters. It was agreed to send representatives to discuss with the residents of Shanyrak, another Alma-Ata shanty town, which recently was attacked by police and bailiffs (see previous reports on socialistworld.net). The meeting picked the most decisive residents to go to Shanyrak.

Socialist Resistance members (CWI in Kazakhstan) welcomed the Bakai residents’ victory. It was great to see the fire of victory in the eyes of the residents. We handed out leaflets calling for land to be nationalised.

We expect the Alma-Ata city authorities will be back. But their attempts to destroy Shanyrak and Bakai shanty towns met fierce mass resistance and were stopped. The authorities set a fire that may not be easy to extinguish.

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