Kazakhstan: We are not rioters – the government must resign


Below we carry the latest updates from today from CWI reporters in Russia and Kazakhstan. For all past articles about developments in Kazkahstan on Socialistworld.net then click here.

You can also see a video message from Paul Murphy MEP (CWI Ireland) to the striking oil workers posted on the Campaign Kazakhstan website here.


18/12 22:05 UPDATE: Workers being tortured!!

According to reports from the Public commission for investigating the bloody events of 16-17th December in Aktau, young workers from the “OzenMunaiGaz” company who have been arrested in Zhenaozen are being thrown into the open yard at the remand prison and are having water thrown over them. The temperature is currently MINUS 17 CELSIUS. The torturers are attempting to get the workers to admit to rioting and to give evidence against their friends. These Nazi methods must be stopped. Protest immediately to the Kazakhstan Embassy in your country and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kazakhstan at Email: mid@mid.kz and send messages of support to:

Otekeeva0103@mail.ru with copies to kazakhstansolidarity@gmail.com

Update 18/12 21:35 GMT

Thousands of police, internal ministry troops, 1500 marines equipped with modern weapons and armoured vehicles have still not succeeded in defeating the oil workers in West Kazakhstan.

Unknown persons have been driving black jeeps around Zhanaozen and firing at passers by – yesterday over 20 were wounded in this way. Today apparently gangs have been using white jeeps to try and search out worker activists. Yet unbelievably, despite the reign of terror in the city, the workers and their supporters have still managed to hold a demonstration on the central square holding white sheets with the one word “peace” written on them.

Things are a bit easier in Aktau, where over a thousand workers were able to hold a demonstration in the centre of the city – their banners read – “We are not rioters!” and “the government must resign”. Reports from there say that the workers were demanding the withdrawal of troops from Zhenaozen and were holding placards with an appeal to the police “not to shoot people”. Many of the protesters are young – they show no fear. Even though the riot police are fully equipped with automatic weapons and gas, the protesters are marching on the police shouting for Nazarbayev to go.

The strikers in Aktau have been joined by a delegation from Shepte, were yesterday there was a bitter battle for control of the main railway line, leaving one worker dead and thirteen wounded. Reports indicate this is continuing. The Independent Trade Union “Aktau” has set up a public commission of enquiry to determine the number of dead, to get agreement for a three day mourning period and action against those responsible.

Journalists have been meeting with difficulties in the region. A group of journalists due to fly from Moscow had their commercial flight cancelled. Four Russian journalists who had made it to Zhenaozen were arrested in the city centre. Murat Tungishbayev had been in Shepte before he was arrested by police and threatened at gunpoint to hand over his camera. While pictures may be better than words, he was still able to give a clear picture of what was happening. According to him, oil-production has stopped throughout the region.

The government understandably is still continuing to spread disinformation. Yesterday it spoke of the strikers deliberately breaking up a children’s birthday concert and burning a New Year tree. (The tree was burnt after the shootings). Today, some government figures are claiming that in fact there were few actual oil workers involved in the initial clashes, that the square had been occupied by bandit groups. Yet a video filmed by a police cameraman demonstrated at an Interior Ministry briefing in Astana clearly show that oil workers and supporters were gathered peacefully in the square and although there were very minor scuffles, usually the oil workers controlled their own supporters. Yet after 3 minutes, the video clearly shows troops or police marching in cordon down the street and heavy shooting can then be heard as they open fire. We post the video here

Now other forces are wading in to slander and attack the strikers. The official state controlled trade unions in Kazakhstan have attacked the strikers saying that “all disagreements should be settled around the negotiating table and not on the streets”. This is after an eight month strike in which one of the main demands of the strikers has been meaningful negotiations and they have met repression, violence and the imprisonment of their lawyer for 6 years.

Internationally, some figures in the trade union movement are adding their insults. Boris Kravchenko, President of the Confederation of Labour of Russia, himself a member of President Medvedev’s council of advisors has protested about the use of violence against the workers, but added that whilst he thought that responsibility for the events, for the spilling of the blood of the oil workers lies at the door of the Kazakhstan leadership, this responsibility “should be fully shared by those political speculators, so-called “committees” and “internationals” who use the workers protests to push their own political demands, their provocative actions which push the authorities to use violent measures”.

Some left wing groups are no better. One with glee, reported a telephone call from Zhanaozen during which the witness spoke of how the oil workers were apparently gathering to celebrate 20 years of Kazakhstan’s independence. This is despite the fact that before the 16th, the mass meeting in the square had condemned the results of the 20 year’s of independence in which “the authorities have robbed ordinary people of freedom, grabbed all our wealth for themselves… For twenty years the authorities have been lying, promising us the good life but continuing to rob us again and again”. Another left wing site attempts to divert the blame from Nazarbayev by suggesting that the Kazakh oligarch Ablyazov, living in London, had provoked the conflict as part of a plan to initiate an orange revolution. Yet a third left wing site criticizes the oil workers, because “under the influence of the CWI” they have raised political slogans such as “nationalization”. Actually the oil-workers raised that demand independently of the CWI. No doubt they are also wrong to raise the “resignation of the government”.

What is remarkable, is that despite all the cynics and slanders thrown against them by their so called friends, the oil workers through their own experience are becoming politicized. Whatever the final outcome of this brutal conflict, which is completely the responsibility of the government and employers, these events will mark a new stage in the development of the workers’s movement across the country.

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December 2011