Introduction by Timofei Dnieperin
The following reports are from Socialist Resistance of Kazakhstan. Their website is <www.socialismkz.info/>.
The background to all this is that the oil sector in western Kazakhstan has been hampered for seven months now by strikes and work stoppages (see Joanna Lillis “Kazakhstan: Labor Dispute Dragging Energy Production Down,” Eurasianet, October 13, 2011). According to some recent reports, the striking workers and their unions have become quite class conscious and radicalized during the labor dispute, as their demands have gone from wage increases and better working conditions to: “a complete nationalization of all industries and the introduction of workers’ control, reorganization and nationalization of the banking, construction industry, the formation of militant labor unions, taking class-based positions on issues, and the creation of a Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan based on a united front of workers and social movements that puts forth a consistent program of struggle for socialism” (See “Zabastovka neftyanikov v Kazakhstane dlitsya uzhe 5 mesyatsev,” IA REX, October 28, 2011).
Reports from Socialist Resistance of Kazakhstan
16 December at 13:50: Riots Have Erupted in Zhanaozen!
Today, more than 3,000 people gathered for a peaceful rally in the town square of Zhanaozen. Striking oil workers and their supporters planned to peacefully express their will to the authorities of Kazakhstan.
In the midst of the rally, the police deliberately crashed one of their cruisers into the crowd, which was the final straw for many of the protesters. Enraged people overturned the police car and then set a nearby police bus on fire, along with a yurt that had been erected in the square in honor of the Independence Day holiday.
The police at this time have fled, and it is reported that the armed forces are currently descending on the city, which likely means there will be a bloody suppression of the strikers. Locals say that if deadly force is used against the striking oil workers, then the whole city is ready to take to the streets. People continue to stream into the protest area.
16 December at 14:52: The Kazakh Authorities Have Opened Fire on Striking Oil Workers
According to the latest information, the national guard troops brought into Zhanaozen have opened fire on the oil workers, with currently 7-8 people injured (but according to unconfirmed information, they are not injured, but dead). There is smoke coming from the Akimat [the Akim’s, or mayor’s, office in Kazakhstan – the Akim is the official representative of the President for the region], the OzenMunayGaz headquarters [the state gas company against which the oil workers are striking], and the Arua Hotel.
Communication, for many of the oil workers, has been lost, and it is likely the government is jamming cellular communications.
At the moment, in Berlin, the U.S., Moscow, and several other countries, solidarity rallies have already begun.
In two hours, European Parliament member Paul Murphy will organize a press conference on the situation in Kazakhstan, while a group of leftist deputies in the European Parliament intends to formally contact Astana [the current capital of Kazakhstan] and demand that the authorities stop the repression and bloodshed.
16 December at 14:56: At the Moment, More Than 20 Oil Workers Have Been Killed
According to activists working at “Karazhanbas” [the major local oil/gas field], as a result of police attacks in Zhanaozen over 20 people have died. Oil workers are asking for more help. In Almaty [the former Soviet-era capital located in the south of the country], troops and police are being deployed to the city center.
16 December at 15:07: In Zhanaozen, Government Office Buildings Are on Fire, City Under Siege from Federal Troops
It has been confirmed that the Zhanaozen mayor’s office and the production branch of OzenMunayGaz are on fire. The Internet in Zhanaozen has been disconnected and all cellular communication is severely disrupted.
16 December at 15:26: All Means of Outside Communication in Zhanaozen Have Been Cut — Please Send All Known Information of What Is Happening
In Zhanaozen all external communications have been cut. Unable to connect to the workers of Zhanozen by landline, cell, or via the Internet. We are trying to make contact with the striking region. Please send all known information of what is happening to our address <email@example.com>.
16 December at 15:54: Socialist Resistance’s (SR) Site Is Completely Blocked within Kazakhstan; Some Recent Developments in Zhanaozen
SR’s site is completely blocked within Kazakhstan, but safe to access it through proxy servers. At the moment we are trying to send out all the latest information through our newsletter (for non-Kazakh citizens, look on the right side of the site under “Subscribe to the News”). Now, it has been confirmed that there are 5 dead oil workers and over 30 injured. Armored vehicles from Aktau are currently on their way to Zhanaozen. Please disseminate this information as widely as possible!
16 December at 16:02: More Than 50 Killed and 500 Wounded
At this point there are more than 50 dead and 500 wounded. Hospitals cannot cope with incoming wounded. Please disseminate this information, as there is a continuing news blackout as to what is happening. . .
16 December at 16:15: Mail.ru Distributes Disinformation About Striking Oil Workers
Mail.ru is spreading disinformation. In the news section Mail.ru has written that protesting oil workers allegedly started the conflagration first by attacking and beating children in Yntymak Square during Independence Day celebrations, prompting the police to intervene. We feel obligated to declare that that’s a lie! The police attacked the strikers first and there were absolutely no children in the square!
16 December at 16:32: Social Networks Have Been Blocked in Kazakhstan
In addition to SR’s website, Twitter has been blocked, information about new victims continues to come in. . .
16 December at 16:38: In Mangistau Province Striking Oil Workers Were Shot by Federal Troops!
On December 16 on the 20th anniversary of independence, striking oil workers and their local supporters marched, as had long been planned, to the central square in Zhanaozen for a peaceful protest against low wages, poor working conditions, and the recent firing of striking workers. More than five thousand people took part in the protest, but the government deliberately organized a provocation by ramming a police car into the crowd of protesters. This provoked a strong reaction of the workers, who overturned the police car, and a mass of workers occupied the Zhanaozen mayor’s office and OzenMunayGaz, which according to various reports were then set on fire. More police cars and a police bus were overturned. Police officers who had previously provoked the workers fled, but then federal troops were brought into the city.
According to representatives of the striking oil workers, deadly force has been used against unarmed oil workers and other civilians, with the death toll at about at least 20 people already and many more wounded. There have been reports of shootouts in Zhanaozen’s downtown. There is no way to get many updates about what is taking place in the city, as the surrounding area has been cordoned off and cellular communication shut down. Our website Socialismkz.info, which was reporting on events as they happened, has been blocked in Kazakhstan. In Mangistau Province, where Zhanaozen is located, all local websites and newspapers have also been blocked. Social networks too.
Pro-government publications and law enforcement agencies have already rushed to characterize the workers and local residents’ protest as hooliganism and are trying to create a negative image of the oil workers in public opinion as well as conceal the real number of killed and wounded. Mail.ru is distributing scurrilous pieces of slander about how oil workers allegedly attacked children during the concert on the square. We are obligated to declare that no children were in the area and that the police were the first to attack!
This massacre means that the authorities have decided to resort to brute force to suppress the striking Mangistau oil workers and drown their protests in blood! Civilian casualties will leave a bloody stain on the reputation of the ruling regime, which, instead of peacefully resolving the ongoing labor dispute that has lasted for seven months now, opted to negotiate through guns.
We call upon all citizens and workers of Kazakhstan to defend the slain brothers and express their general distrust of this government. We need a general strike and civil disobedience!
We also call upon Kazakhstan to boycott elections to the Majilis [lower house] of the Parliament, to protest against the massacre of Zhanaozen oil workers.
We call on all left organizations, trade unions, and labor organizations around the world to protest and organize protests at the diplomatic missions of Kazakhstan.
The Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan
16 December at 17:28: In Zhanaozen Already 70 Workers and Local Residents Dead; The City in Revolt!
According to information we just received there is a shootout in the city. The whole town is consumed by unrest; all the people have taken to the streets in support of the oil workers. Three policemen have been killed in the clashes and according to unconfirmed reports hundreds more have been injured. More than 70 oil workers have been killed and the wounded amount to over 500. The city has been occupied by more than 1,500 Marines. We continue to monitor developments.
16 December at 17:48: In Aktau, on the Central Square Hundreds of People Have Gathered in Support of People of Zhanaozen
In Aktau, on the central square hundreds of people have gathered in support of people of Zhanaozen. All the neighboring towns, too, have started mobilize. Protests are occurring all over Mangistau Province.
16 December at 17:55: In Mangistau Province a General Strike Has Begun!
In Zhanaozen oil production has been completely shut down. In support of their protesting comrades, oil workers have stopped all production in the region! All extraction and refining sites in Mangistau Province have gone on strike. Work stoppages are being reported in other companies not associated with oil production too. A general strike has begun.
16 December at 19:01: An Armed Convoy Is Approaching Zhanaozen
Workers in Zhanaozen have informed us that the city administration building has completely burned to the ground. Tens of thousands of workers are on strike, and as mentioned earlier, oil production in the region has completely stopped. Masses of people are organizing rallies and demonstrations in the streets of Zhanaozen. Meanwhile, a column of armored vehicles is entering the city. Messages of support of the oil workers are pouring in from all regions of the country and tomorrow will be the first day of countrywide support protests. Strikers intend to support the workers of the neighboring regions. In Aktau, the regional center of Mangistau Province, the Internet and mobile communications have been completely cut off.
Translation by Timofei Dnieperin