Tag Archives: Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan: Hands Off Roza Tuletaeva! (solidarity appeal)

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Roza Tuletaeva starts hunger strike as prison regime refuses medical aid

April 24, 2013 

On 22nd April, Roza Tuletaeva, one of the activists from the Zhanaozen oil workers’ strike, started a hunger strike. She has taken this extreme step because she has been refused essential medical aid at the women’s prison colony in Atyrau, where she is currently serving a lengthy jail sentence. She was arrested after the notorious massacre of Zhanaozen oil workers’ by government forces in December 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison (later reduced to five, on appeal), on the charge of “organising mass disorder.”

According to friends and relatives of Roza, she is suffering from chronic liver disease. The refusal to provide suitable treatment appears to be intentional revenge by the authorities. It is a form of torture against this political prisoner, who refused to accept that she was guilty as charged.

During her court trial, Roza experienced torture and sexual harassment at the hands of the state security police (KNB), and the lives of her children were threatened. Nevertheless, she refused to give evidence against herself and her co-strikers, refused to give evidence against Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the Party Alga (who was later sentenced to a prison sentence), and exposed the methods of the investigators during her trial.

Local human rights organisations have demanded the immediate provision of medical assistance to Roza Tuletaeva and have also demanded the right to visit her to make a proper assessment of her health. Clearly she is in danger, her health is already undermined and now her life is at risk. The hunger strike is eroding her health even further.

Campaign Kazakhstan calls for protest messages against these further attempts at torture, which are organized by government forces with the aim of breaking the will of Roza and her comrades and of anyone else prepared to resist the authorities. By attempting to physically annihilate Roza Tuletaeva, they are trying to scare all oil workers, and those who live in the Mangystau region, from further protest actions.

Hands off Roza Tuletaeva!

Freedom to the arrested oil-workers and political prisoners in Kazakhstan!

Please send urgent protests to the Embassy of Kazakhstan in your country (a list can be found here) and copies to kazakhstansolidarity@gmail.com and campaignkazakhstan@gmail.com.

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Campaign Kazakhstan Takes Protest to Tony Blair (London, December 17, 1 p.m.)

blair-protest-flyer-1

Free all political prisoners!

Kazakhstan is a one man dictatorship. Workers across the country are paid starvation wages whilst a tiny minority become fabulously wealthy. When people stand up for their social, human, workers rights, they face vicious repression. Kazakhstan is constantly ranked amongst the lowest in the world for press freedom, human rights, but amongst the highest for corruption and embezzlement. Tony Blair has acted as an apologist for this regime, speaking on its behalf many times.

But this has not stopped people fighting back. The repression is met with a heroic fighback by many in Kazakhstan. Kazakh president Nazarbayev is preparing the way to become the next Mubarrak or Ben Ali.

Aron Atabek
Aron Atabek, a poet and dissident, has been imprisoned for 5 years now for supporting the struggle of residents of Shanrak. They were evicted with no offer of alternative accommodation. For the ‘crime’ of helping in negotiations with the authorities and the residents, Aron was sentenced to 18 years. He has been in solitary confinement for 2 years, denied access to his family. This is illegal under international law. We demand his immediate release, along with all those imprisoned as a result of the Shanrak struggle.

Vadim Kuramshin
Human rights activist and lawyer Vadim Kuramshin has recently been sentenced for 12 years in a retrial, after a jury threw out the charges a few months earlier. Getting rid of all pretense of a fair trial, neither Vadim nor his representatives were not allowed to attend.

Vadim is in prison simply because he is a throrn in the side of the regime, highlighting the many human rights abuses that occur throughout Kazakhstan. For more details on the campaign for Vadim, see our website below.

Who are Campaign Kazakhstan?
Campaign Kazakhstan fights for democratic, social and workers’ rights in Kazakhstan. Through its campaigning material and its web-site, it highlights the conditions facing workers there and organises international solidarity. Many trade union branches and human rights groups have supported Campaign Kazakhstan internationally. Paul Murphy MEP has raised the campaign’s demands in the European Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn MP, Alan Meale MP and Billy Bragg have all supported the campaign.

Campaign Kazakhstan appeals to human rights and press freedom organisations, trade unionists and all those who support democratic, social, worker and political rights in Kazakhstan to:

a) Add their names to the list of sponsors and supporters of the campaign
b) Send letters of protest about the denial of democratic rights in Kazakhstan
c) Spread the word about the situation in Kazakhstan
d) Join protests, lobbies and other campaigns
e) Make a donation through the website and ask your colleagues, family and friends to do the same

campaignkazakhstan.org

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Counterpunch
December 13, 2012
The World Bank Brings Nazarbayev University to Kazakhstan
by Allen Ruff and Steve Horn

A year ago, on Dec. 15, 2011,  Kazakhstan state security forces opened fire with U.S.-supplied weapons on oil workers on strike since the preceding May for increased wages and better conditions in the Caspian Sea company town of Zhanaozen. According to the official count, 15 workers died and upwards of 70 were wounded. Unofficial accounts reported much higher number of casualties.  Several hundred miles to the east in the capital, Astana, business went on as usual that day for the Western faculty members and administrators at the recently built multi-billion dollar Nazarbayev University, a joint venture involving the country’s authoritarian regime, the World Bank, and a number of major, primarily US “partnering” universities. This is the first of a three-part series, stimulated by news of the “Zhanaozen Massacre” and initial word of “global university” dealings in Kazakhstan.

Part One

A number of prestigious, primarily U.S.-based universities are quietly working with the authoritarian regime in  Kazakhstan under the dictatorial rule of the country’s “Leader for Life,” Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In a project largely shaped and brokered by the World Bank in 2009 and  2010, the regime sealed deals with some ten major U.S. and British universities and scientific research institutes. They’ve been tasked to design and guide the specialized colleges at the country’s newly constructed showcase university.

As a result, scores of academics have flocked to the resource rich, strategically located country four times the size of Texas. They remain there despite the fact that every major international human rights monitor has cited the Nazarbayev regime for its continuing abuse of  civil liberties and basic freedoms.

Kazakhstan now serves as a key hub for the application of the World Bank’s “knowledge bank” agenda, a vivid case study of the far-reaching nature of a corporate – and by extension, imperial – higher education agenda. . . .

Read the rest of the article here.

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Support Pussy Riot by all means. But support the Kazakh oil workers too

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Support Pussy Riot by all means. But support the Kazakh oil workers too
9 August 2012

A court in Mangistau, western Kazakhstan, has rejected appeals by 12 oil workers against prison sentences ranging from two to six years, imposed for their part in last year’s strikes.

One activist, Roza Tuletaeva, had her sentence cut from seven years to five – but her family fear this is part of a campaign to force her to give evidence against political oppositionists in an upcoming trial. Threats against Tuletaeva’s children by the KNB security service have made her suicidal, they warn.

The appeals were heard, and almost all rejected, by judge Maksat Beisembaev in the Mangistau district court on 2 August. The prisoners were not permitted to attend the hearing.

Lawyers appealed against the sentences on the grounds that the defendants had admitted their part in last year’s protests; that they had no previous convictions; that in some cases guilt had not been proved; and that most of the prisoners had underage children and were in many cases the household breadwinner.

The appeal verdicts were another blow to the community of Zhanaozen, the oil town where on 16 December police fired on demonstrators demanding improved wages and conditions, killing at least 16 and wounding at least 64.

Prisoners’ families and other oil workers who crowded the court room told journalists that they were “shocked”. They angrily compared the appeal verdicts with those pronounced on two former akims (mayors) of Zhanaozen, Orak Sarbopeev and Zhalgas Babakhanov, who have both been convicted of large-scale corruption and handed two-year conditional sentences.

Human rights activists fear that the pressure on Tuletaeva by the security forces bodes ill for the trial of political oppositionists Vladimir Kozlov, Serik Sapargali and Akzhanat Aminov. They have been charged with “inciting social conflict”, because they supported last year’s strikes by oil workers.

Tuletaeva’s daughter, Aliya, told opposition newspapers that her mother had telephoned her from detention and said that KNB officers had threatened to “do something” to her children.

Aliya believes that Roza Tuletaeva was threatened by the same KNB officer who was tortured her in pre-trial detention. She also thinks that KNB officers forced her mother to sign a declaration against the opposition politician Vladimir Kozlov, but that they are worried she will renounce it in court.

Thousands of kilometres to the north west, in Moscow, three members of the Pussy Riot feminist punk band, who allegedly sang songs against Russian president Vladimir Putin in a cathedral, are on trial for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. They face a possible three-year sentence.

Young people all over Europe have demonstrated in support of Pussy Riot, and a good thing too. The band has received support from Madonna and other pop celebrities. I hope we can build the same level of support for Roza Tuletaeva and the other activists in Zhanaozen – on whom the Kazakh authorities, having already perpetrated the dreadful massacre of 16 December, are exacting vengeance.

The contrast between the huge media coverage of Pussy Riot in western Europe, and the near-total silence about Zhanaozen, is stark.

Pussy Riot are cool and photogenic; the oil workers are not. The Pussy Riot trial is easy to access for the western journalists based in Moscow, some of whom can feel smugly superior that – for all of the last forty years or so! – supposedly blasphemous artists are no longer so crudely targeted in western Europe. Not only the liberal newspapers (Guardian, Independent, etc), but even the right-wing Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, have sympathised.

And there is a political discourse. In the two-dimensional world inhabited by foreign policy “experts”, denouncing Putin is a priority . . . but attacking the Nazarbayev regime in Kazakhstan is more complicated. Putin is against “western interests”, has mistreated “our” oil companies, and has worried Russian private property by jailing oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Nazarbayev has opened Kazakhstan’s doors to foreign investment, and “our” oil companies – British Gas, Agip, ExxonMobil and others – have invested billions in the very western Kazakhstan oil field where the massacre took place.

So I say: support Pussy Riot, by all means. Dance however you want, in a cathedral of your choice. Use irony, blasphemy, conspiracy. . . . But do something about Roza Tuletaeva and the oil workers too. For example, you can:

• Support the on-line protest, demanding a review of unjust sentences, launched by the Confederation of Labour of Russia, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan and the LabourStart web site.

• Write to the Kazakh government, demanding the release of the jailed oil workers and investigation of the allegations of torture, and send copies to the Open Dialog Foundation which is monitoring events in Zhanaozen and urging international support;

• Especially if you are in the UK, demand that the British government takes action too, as it has close links with Kazakhstan and supports the activity of British oil companies there.

*****

For more information, visit the “Zhanaozen oil workers” site (Russian and some English) 

Information for this article from OD Foundation (here) and Respublika (here and here).

Read why People & Nature, a site about socialism and the natural environment, thinks this is important, here.

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Kazakhstan: Justice for Oil Workers! (LabourStart)

www.labourstartcampaigns.net

Kazakhstan: Justice for Oil Workers!

In partnership with the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, the Confederation of Labour of Russia, and supported by the International Trade Union Confederation

Over a period of several months, court trials related to the tragic events in Zhanaozen of 16 December 2011 have taken place. Many months of dispute between oil workers and the management of oil companies, with the connivance of the authorities, resulted in disorders, violence and the uncontrolled use of force by police, which caused the death of 17 and injuries to dozens of people. Not only oil workers were killed and injured, but also citizens of Kazakhstan who had no involvement with the labour conflict.

Dozens of people, whose involvement is contestable, were subsequently charged. Many of them were sentenced to different terms in prison. During the process, international observers, representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and OSCE, human rights defenders and journalists recorded numerous violations in the trial processes. Almost all defendants and some of witnesses stated that they were tortured in the course of the investigation, but the trials were not suspended. The trials were conducted in an environment of extreme tensions and close to a state of emergency measures in the region.

The international trade union movement demands that the sentences be reconsidered, that all cases of torture and provocation be thoroughly investigated, and that national legislation that envisages criminal responsibility for “calling for social strife” and that is used selectively to put pressure on trade unionists, human rights activists and public figures, be changed.

Go here to sign a petition to the Kazakhstan authorities.

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Esenbek Ukteshbayev on the Trade Union Struggle in Kazakhstan (video)

(Via socialismkz.info)

Last Saturday, Esenbek Ukteshbayev, president of the fighting independent trade union in Kazakhstan, Zhanartu, spoke in London. He brought home to an audience of more than 500 UK workers’ representatives and activists the atrocities carried out by the Nazarbayev regime against striking workers and their representatives. His address brought the sixth National Shop Stewards’ Network conference to its feet out of respect for the tremendous struggle being waged against the murderous dictatorship in his country. (Campaign Kazakhstan)

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All but four Zhanaozen defendants found ‘guilty’
June 05, 2012

Zhanaozen city is reportedly surrounded by Internal Ministry troops in advance of the sentencing of the thirty seven oil workers and their supporters on Monday. Supporters of those on trial are planning further protests in Zhanaozen and Aktau.

Only 3 of the 37 have been cleared of all charges. Twenty one of those on trial were sentenced to either 2 or 3 years in prison, with the sentence suspended or, in a couple of cases, subject to amnesty. Thirteen activists, however, received real prison sentences ranging from three years to, in the case of Roza Tuletaeva, seven years.

Roza, a mother of three children, was one of the leading activists in the oil strike. During the trial she related how she nearly suffocated when bags were put over her head during interrogation and she was beaten with iron rods. She suffered other indignities, which she was too embarrassed to tell the court openly as her friends and relatives were present.

It is widely reported in the international press that the events of 16th December resulted from riots caused by the oil workers after seven months on strike. This is an attempt to shift the blame from the Kazakhstan state. The oil workers had planned a peaceful demonstration on 16th December.

Yet according to his court testimony given during this trial, a senior police officer was dispatched with police troops to Zhanaozen on 14 December. Instead of tear gas, rubber bullets or water cannons, weapons and live rounds were issued. Video footage from the conflict shows police firing into unarmed and peaceful protesters, often shooting people in the back. The government admits 15 people were killed, yet no charges have been lodged against the interior minister, who said he had given the order to open fire.

To avoid blame being directed at the regime itself, the General Prosecutor picked out a number of scapegoats from the local authorities and police to put on trial. Undoubtedly guilty of the crimes for which they were charged, they, nevertheless, have served the role of letting higher up figures off the hook.

Five police officers, charged with “exceeding their authority” by shooting live weapons into the crowd, received sentences of between 5 and 7 years. The Head of the Police prison, where a prisoner was so badly beaten that he later died, received 5 years for “not calling an ambulance on time”!  A former mayor and three managers of the KazMunaiGaz company also received sentences of seven years for stealing from the city’s funds and from money that should have been paid by KazMunaiGaz to local welfare funds.

More arrests and torture
Even though these sentences appear strict, they are for crimes that resulted in the death of up to 70 people, the torture and death of protesters while in police custody and the theft of literally billions of tenge from state funds. That similar sentences have been handed out to the oil workers and their supporters indicates that the regime has just been taking its revenge on the workers. None of the workers were carrying arms or can be deemed responsible for violent acts, but on the contrary conducted themselves in a peaceful and disciplined way and ended up as the victims of the police massacre and subsequent regime of terror.

It is now reported that another wave of arrests and torture is taking place. Up to 15 more activists from the oil strike, along with leaders of the opposition political party Alga, are expected to be put on trial for “inciting social discontent” with a possible sentence of up to 12 years.  Large numbers of trade union activists from the OzenMunaiGaz company are being called in for questioning, in an attempt to intimidate them from organizing a new strike. Following questioning, one 51 year old activist committed suicide.

However, local trade union activists report that the workers are still determined to protest, whether outside the City mayor’s office or by preparing new strikes in the region. According to one of the local leaders, the next trial is being prepared, not to take revenge for the last strike, but to try and prevent the next one.

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Kazakh Massacre Cover-Up

Kazakh Massacre Cover-Up
By Robert Jones
The Moscow Times
27 May 2012

Six people were convicted last week for instigating riots on Dec. 16 in the Kazakh city of Zhanaozen. Kazakh leaders and prosecutors claimed all along that the massacre was organized by “a group of former oil workers aided by a number of young people,” but this is patently untrue. Even the European Parliament in early March “strongly condemned the violent crackdown by the police forces.”

The workers of Ozenmunaigaz and a neighboring oil company had been on a peaceful seven-month strike over wages and trade union recognition. Even before Dec. 16 they were attacked by riot police. In August, one of their leaders, Zhaksylyk Turbayev, was killed on his way to a union meeting, and a few weeks later the daughter of another activist was killed. Natalya Sokolova, their lawyer, was sentenced to six years in prison.

In the absence of meaningful negotiations either by the employer or the government, the oil workers called for a peaceful demonstration on Dec. 16. They appealed for the resignation of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his government.

The authority’s response was decided in advance. According to his court testimony, a senior police officer was dispatched with police troops to Zhanaozen on Dec. 14. Instead of tear gas, rubber bullets or water cannons, weapons and live rounds were issued. Video footage from the conflict shows police firing into unarmed and peaceful protesters, often shooting people in the back. The government admits that 15 people were killed, while eyewitnesses say the number of victims is much higher — about 70. Nonetheless, no charges have been lodged against the interior minister, who said he had given the order to open fire.

Notably, not one policeman was seriously wounded in the conflict. This undermines the outrageous government claim that “oil workers attacked police officers and innocent bystanders.” It is clear that no attempt was made to use ordinary crowd-control methods, such as tear gas and water cannons. Instead, riot police using automatic weapons opened fire without warning on the unarmed crowd.

Sentences of three to seven years are now being handed down for the 49 oil workers on trial, several of whom had friends and family members killed in the massacre. Yet an incredible picture has emerged during the trials, during which defendants testified about how security forces imposed a curfew and reign of terror, arresting all they thought were linked to the strike.

One defendant, Kairat Edilov, testified that he was offered protection by the police if he agreed to give evidence against 15 others. After refusing, he said the police beat him, covering his head with a bag and nearly suffocating him. He claimed his investigator, Bakyt Mendybayev, put a pistol to his head several times. Other prisoners testified how they had been stripped naked, thrown outside and periodically doused with cold water when temperatures were minus 15 degrees Celsius.

One prosecution witness testified that he had helped one defendant to loot an ATM. But a day later, he returned to testify under his real name and retracted his earlier statement. Explaining his false testimony, he said he was beaten by the police after his arrest on Dec. 27. “I shook all night from fear and cold,” he said. “I couldn’t get hold of myself. I asked the investigator where I should go because the city was under curfew. On my way home, I was again arrested by soldiers. They were in masks and started beating me again.” The police, he said, had threatened to suffocate him with a plastic bag if he did not follow their instructions.

In April, Human Rights Watch issued the following statement: “Kazakhstan needs to show that it has a zero-tolerance policy toward torture by suspending the trial and conducting an immediate, impartial and effective investigation.” Yet on May 11, the Prosecutor General’s Office demanded long prison sentences for those currently on trial.

The Kazakh prosecutor general recently said it is important that “our international partners are able to see that justice is being done.” Yet the government recently refused visas to a delegation led by Paul Murphy, member of the European Parliament, to visit Aktau.

The attempt to blame the Zhanaozen massacre on the strikers without bringing the law enforcement officials who were responsible for the killings and subsequent beatings and torture to justice shows how far Kazakhstan’s authoritarian regime is willing to brutalize its citizens.

Robert Jones is the coordinator in Russia for CampaignKazakhstan.org.

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Protest police killings of striking Kazakh oil workers! (London, Dec. 21)

Demonstrate – Support oil workers and their communities in Kazakhstan – Protest police killings

at:
Kazakh-British Chamber of Commerce
62 South Audley Street
Mayfair
London
W1K 2QR

on:
Wednesday
21st December 2011
12 noon

On Friday 17 December, the security forces violently attacked oil workers demanding better living standards in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan. Ten people were shot dead, more than 70 wounded, and 70 arrested, according to the government. Opposition activists and Russian media say that the number of victims could be much higher.

In spite of the massacre, the protests continued on 18 November. There were further clashes in nearby Aktau and Shetpe, and a 20-day state of emergency has been declared.

The Zhanaozen protests are part of a campaign for better pay and conditions by workers in the western Kazakhstan oilfield that started in May, grew in a strike of about 16,000 people in June, and continued through the year. (The Kazakh elite has become rich, thanks to oil – but in Mangistau, the largest oil-producing province, one third of the population are below the poverty line.)

Just like anti-capitalist protesters in Wall Street, the City of London and elsewhere, the Kazakh oil field workers established a “tent city”, in Zhanaozen’s main square, in June. When police tried to break it up in July, 60 of them covered themselves with petrol and threatened to set themselves on fire. Friday’s massacre took place in the same square.

Kazakh oil workers’ communities – we are with you!

Kazakhstan, oil and the City:

  • The companies where most of the protesting oil workers work are partly owned by Kazmunaigaz Exploration and Production, which is listed on the London stock exchange and has often raised loans from London-based institutions.
  • The UK is the third largest direct investor in Kazakhstan (after the USA and China).
  • Tony Blair, the former prime minister, is being paid millions of pounds to lobby in the Kazakh government’s interests. Many other British businessmen and politicians help, too. Richard Evans, the former chairman of British Aerospace, is chairman of Samruk-Kazyna, a state-owned holding company that controls a big chunk of the Kazakh economy.
  • The oil produced in Kazakhstan is traded in the offices of big oil trading companies and international oil companies in their London offices.

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