Sweden: Kazakhstan solidarity action

“What is Telia doing in Kazakhstan?”

Seven million people in Kazakhstan use Telia’s mobile network (i.e. 98% of all mobile phone users). For that reason, public solidarity protests by in solidarity with striking oil workers in Kazakhstan were organised outside Telia shops in Stockholm and Gothenburg, on Wednesday 31 August.

Telia are the former Swedish state-owned telecom monopoly (it is still partly state-owned). For a few years Telia has had ownership of Kcell, the biggest telecom company in Kazakhstan. On their website, Telia talks about their”socially responsible business”, but, in reality, they are cooperating with a dictatorship in Kazakhstan.

When our protests began today, Telia shop managers phoned both security staff and the police. However, our protests were legal and the police had no powers to stop us. The managers had to live with potential customers turning away from their shops.

In Gothenburg, 15 people attended protests at two Telia shops. In Stockholm, our councillors, Mattias Bernhardsson and Lina Thörnblom, took part in the protest. We got a good response for passersby, as we held aloft placards and banners, and handed out a new leaflet about the oil workers´ strike and the need for solidarity. We also had a petition and raised 30 euros for the oil strikers’ solidarity fund. Our newspaper, Offensiv, carried a full page article on support from Swedish miners for the oil workers in Kazakhstan.

Our leaflet pointed out that even the Swedish government’s report on human rights in Kazakhstan, from 2010, says that the situation “in recent years has deteriorated.” Opposition in the country movements are oppressed and President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his family encourage a cult of personality, the report says.

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August 2011