But resistance grows – oil workers strike
The whole of Kazakhstan has been shaken by the latest brutality of the authorities, when bailiffs from the BTA Bank evicted a pensioner, Zholyamin Nurkenova, from her home in the North Eastern town of Pavlodar.
As soon as it was discovered that bailiffs were on the way to her flat, activists from the ’Leave People’s Homes Alone’ campaign rushed to help her. On the day before the attack, activists occupied the office of the bank, led by Elena Semonova, a leader of the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, and blocked the nearby road. They demanded to see the bank manager, to discuss with him other means of paying off the debt. But he did not listen to their requests.
On 24 May, the bailiffs turned up at Zholyamin’s flat, to find activists already there. The protesters were so desperate that they poured petrol over themselves and threatened to light a match. This was not enough to stop the bailiffs continuing their raid, with police back up. They charged the flat, beating women and pushed pensioner Maria Ivashkina down stairs, breaking her ribs and a collar bone. When Marat, Zholamin’s son, tried to defend her, he was brutally beaten by these thugs. He eventually broke away, ran up to the roof of the ten story block of flats and jumped off. The heartless bailiffs left his broken body laying where it fell, with his mother weeping on the ground nearby, while they continued their dirty work of clearing the flat. Elena Semonova was later arrested and held for several hours.
As is typical of the bankers in Kazakhstan, their actions bear no resemblance to humanity, as they attempt to grab as much wealth as they can from the people. In this case, Zholyamin had taken credit from the bank before the start of the current economic crisis hitting Kazakhstan. She paid back over half the sum but as her income fell the bank started hiking up the interests rates. Unable to pay back the huge interest, the bank moved to seize her flat, worth 25,000 dollars, claiming it was worth just nine, leaving her with a further 7000 dollars debt to pay off.
In another already notorious case, an 18 year old was driven to suicide by bank theft. (See previous report on socialistworld.net).
But as opposition activists predicted, the fight back is growing. Recently, three hundred striking oil workers in the city of Karazhanbas marched on their bosses’ office, demanding a meeting for negotiations with senior management over the issue of repression against their trade union. While they were marching, other oil workers stopped work and promised to continue the strike until negotiations are successful. A member of Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, Mukhtar Umbetov, was elected to the negotiations’ committee. He explains that apart from demanding the dropping of charges against trade union activists (for example, Nataliya Sokolova faces criminal charges for “spreading social conflict and politicizing disputes”!) the oil workers also demand the nationalization of the oil and gas sector.
Significantly, the issue of nationalization gained a high profile in Kazakhstan, following a press conference in the National Press Club, at which the opposition parties, such as Agip and the Communist Party, came out in support of the nationalisation demand that was initially put forward by Socialist Movement Kazakhstan – for the nationalization of the commanding heights and natural resources.
The editor of the Vzglyad newspaper, Igor Vinyavskii, called the regime’s new wave of planned privatizations, “a lie”, similar to that carried out at the start of the nineties. Outlining the position of the SMK, Ainur Kurmanov explained: “By nationalization, we understand that ownership should not just be passed from one person to another in the form of some state holding or into quasi-state ownership, but we mean that industry should become genuinely socially owned with control and management of production by the workforce. In other words, we are against the simple purchase of shares of these companies and their concentration into the hands of oligarchs and the state; instead all the profits from the exploitation of natural resources should be invested back into the economy, into health, education and the building of accessible homes”.
Not surprisingly, the regime is stepping up its campaign against independent opposition papers, such as Vzglyad and Respublika, which although not officially banned are prevented from being printed and are now facing huge fines on trumped-up libel charges, in a crude attempt to shut them down.
Messages of support can be sent to: Leave People’s Home Alone campaign (in Pavlodar), and also to the oil workers (in Karazhanbas) by email: firstname.lastname@example.org with copies to Robert.email@example.com.