On 5 June, friends and colleagues of Takhir Mukhamedzyanov, who were worried that he had not turned up for work after the previous weekend, went to his flat in Karaganda where they found his body. While the cause of death is not yet known, the passing away of Takhir, a healthy and energetic 51 year-old, is surrounded by suspicion. Not least because Takhir recently received threats from “persons unknown” that they would “get rid of him”.
For many years, Takhir worked as a miner, first in Soviet industry and then, after privatization, for ‘Arcelor-Mittal’, which took over all the main pits and metal foundries in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan. He was illegally sacked in 2008, after which he took up full-time campaigning as Vice-President of the ‘Miners’ Families’, a post he held until his death. Takhir and his colleagues from Miners’ Families gave valuable assistance to those the organization was originally established to help – the widows and children of men killed in industrial accidents – but they also become more and more involved in defending the rights of working miners. Health and safety standards in Karaganda’s pits and metal foundries are ignored by the new bosses in their chase for profits. With the official state-supported trade unions doing little to defend the workers, the Miners’ Families has taken on the role of an independent trade union.
Such activities did not go unnoticed. All sorts of pressure was piled onto Miners’ Families. Meant as a ‘warning’, Takhir’s garage and the car it housed were blown up on 10 October 2010. Activists in Miners’ Families believe that the explosion was directly related to Takhir’s work defending the rights of miners and their widows. According to his comrade, Natalia Tomilova, threats to use violent and terror methods against workers’ rights activists have again become commonplace.
Just two weeks after the garage explosion, at 9.30 in the evening, police turned up at Takhir’s flat and forcibly removed him to a local psychiatric hospital. Two doctors, three uniformed police and a plain clothes agent claimed that following the loss of his property in the explosion, Takhir suffered a breakdown and needed hospitalisation and psychiatric treatment. When they tried to give him an injection of an unknown substance, Takhir managed to break free. He phoned a friend and his daughter collected him and brought him home. Thanks to a public campaign, the doctors were subsequently forced to leave Takhir alone.
In March 2011, he was living in the nearby mining centre of Shakhtinsk when a youth approached him and said that documents that had been in Takhir’s car when the garage exploded (and which, police claimed, were destroyed), had been found on a rubbish tip on the edge of town, revealed after snow melted. This confirmed that Takhir’s garage was broken into before the explosion.
He could not remain indifferent to injustice
Comrades from the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan (previously known as ‘Kazakhstan 2012′) first met Takhir in January 2009. In September 2010, he organized a visit to Karaganda by Joe Higgins (then an MEP for the Socialist Party [CWI Ireland] and now once again a TD [MP] in Ireland). In November 2010, Takhir took part in the founding conference of the ‘Zhanartu’ trade union and was elected to its central committee. In May 2011, he participated in founding the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan and was elected one of its five Joint Presidents. In July 2011, Takhir again organized a visit of an MEP to Karaganda, Paul Murphy (Socialist Party Ireland), who was on his way to visit striking oil workers in Zhanaozen. Just two weeks ago, Takhir visited Zhenkazgan city, where workers have been involved in strike action and are facing repression. He soon found common language with them and left with a firm commitment between the workers in Zhankazgan and Karaganda to support each other in struggle.
Takhir did much work. He could not pass by or remain indifferent if he saw injustice. We will remember him as a tireless and consistent fighter for the rights of the working class of Kazakhstan. We will remember him as a personality; he had no pretensions, he was always spirited, he was a great person in company. We will miss him.
On behalf of the independent trade union Zhanartu and the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan we convey our heartfelt condolences to the relatives and friends of Takhir.
Takhir will always be in our memory, his name written into the history of the working class of Kazakhstan. Rest well, dear comrade.
Statement by the Central Committee of the independent trade union, Zhanartu and the Political Committee of the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan
Campaign Kazakhstan sends condolences to the relatives and friends of Takhir Mukhamedzyanov and demands a full and independent investigation into the cause of Takhir’s death. If it is found that he did not die from natural causes, those responsible for Takhir’s death must be brought to justice.