Kazakhstan: May Day marked by attacks on CWI activists and supporters

Ainur Kurmanov hospitalized.

Not content with attacking peaceful protests by people defending their homes or trade unionists their jobs and wages, the authorities in Almaty, Kazakhstan, have now taken to attacking oppositionists when they take part in officially sanctioned activities.

The ruling parties in the former Soviet countries usually use May Day in a cynical manner, organizing official events to which people are expected to turn up to wave balloons and listen to speeches and pop music. Having been prevented from organizing their own event, activists of the socialist “Kazakhstan 2012” movement and Socialist Resistance Kazakhstan (the CWI in Kazakhstan) decided to participate in the official event. Initially, after checking that their flags held no calls to action, the police allowed them onto the demonstration. However, just a short while later, once the red flags had been unfurled the police waded into this part of the demonstration to remove any opposition activists. In the scuffles that resulted, Ainur Kurmanov received head wounds after being kicked by police whilst on the ground. The leader of the “Leave People’s Homes Alone” campaign, Bakhytgul Ukteshbaeva, was also hurt.

It seems that the appearance of red flags on this May Day demonstration acted like a red rag to a bull. Observers describe it as a “red stain” in the otherwise rainbow coloured march. As the oppositionists chanted “shame” and “stop police repression”, other participants began to shout out their disgust at the police actions. Later a section of workers who had joined the official parade broke away in protest.

Ainur was taken by ambulance to hospital where he was diagnosed as suffering from concussion, with bruises to his face and skull. Despite the fact that the doctor treating him stated clearly on TV that he was ill and should be left alone, the police and the KNB, the political police, through the night consistently harassed Ainur, his friends and comrades who had come to the hospital in support. Firstly they tried to pressurize the doctor to change his diagnosis, to say he had not been hurt and then in an attempt to get Ainur to admit that he had organized an “unsanctioned protest”. Activists of Kazakhstan 2012 organised a round the clock presence at the hospital to protect Ainur from the harassment, during the night Prison Rights activist Vadim Kuramshin was attacked in an attempt by police to confiscate a camera. The authorities say they want to charge Ainur with organizing an unsanctioned protest – he faces yet another 15 days in prison.

This attack comes against the background of an increase in strike action in the country, a new wave of prison disturbances and even more harassment of the opposition. On the 27th April, for example, a “flash mob” was organized by the local mayor’s office outside the home of the leader of the “Leave People’s Homes Alone” campaign Esenbek Ukteshbayev “to protest at the machinations of the opposition”!

Today, May 2nd, the trial of Dmitry Tikhonov takes place. He is charged with organizing the “unsanctioned protest”. How they will argue that this was unsanctioned when it was an official event organized by the authorities remains to be seen.

A video of the attack can be seen on: http://www.socialismkz.info

We call for urgent protests and embassy pickets demanding:

1. An end to police harassment and violence against opposition activists;

2. Charges against Dmitry Tikhonov to be dropped;

3. No charges against Ainur Kurmanov;

4. A public enquiry into the violent attack on the peaceful protesters.

5. Stop the attacks on the newspapers “Respublika” and “Vremya”;

6. End the sackings of worker activists and trade unionists fighting job and wage cuts;

7. For the nationalization of the oil and gas sector under workers’ control and management;

8. Full support for “Kazakhstan 2012” – for a mass workers’ party with a socialist programme.

Please protest urgently.

Protests against the trial of Dmitry Tikhonov can be faxed urgently to the court on the number ++7727 2715802 or the court can be phoned on ++7727 2715807/

Other protests should be sent to

1: Press office of the KNB

Email: press@knb.kz

2: Press office of the Almaty Police

E mail: delta@police.kz

2: Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Email: mid@mid.kz

3: The Head of the President’s Administration

Tel: ++7 (7172) 74 55 24

4: The Embassy of Kazakhstan in your own country.

Please send copies of all protests to robert.cwi@gmail.com and ainur1917@gmail.com

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May 2011