Call for commemoration protests at Kazakhstan embassies
Ainur Kurmanov, Socialist Movement Kazakhstan
16th December marks the third anniversary of the brutal shooting down by state forces of oil-workers and their families who had been on strike for seven months in West Kazakhstan. What began as a strike turned into a mass movement involving pensioners, unemployed youth, the relatives and friends of the strikers. This in part is due to the belief of the strikers that they were fighting for all. They put as one of their demands pay rises for the region’s teachers and doctors because of their low wages and the high cost of living.
The strike started in May. After the break-up of the protesters camp in July, the protesters started a round the clock rally in the city’s central square. It was organised and disciplined. Oil workers from other sites and companies maintained solidarity, regularly collected from their wages money to help the strikers. Even though the two companies involved, “Ozenmunaigaz” and “Karazhanbasmunai” tried to sack the workforce and replace them with new workers, production fell dramatically and the profits taken by the owners, including members of the ruling family were badly hit.
The most important point is that there was a dramatic jump in the political consciousness of those workers who went through the seven and half months of this school of class struggle in many ways similar to what happened to the Russia working class after the first Russian revolution in 1905. The strike quickly left the boundaries of economic struggle as the workers supported the nationalisation of the oil companies under workers’ control. By November, the strikers set up a unified workers’ committee over the whole region which called for a boycott of the parliamentary election as a result of their lack of confidence in the current political parties and called for the setting up of a national unification of fighting trade unions and their own political party.
These calls culminated in a call for a general strike with the demand for Nazarbayev’s resignation which was due to be made on 16th December at the planned rally. This the ruling clique could not tolerate which led to the decision to prevent the movement developing into a national strike and protest by drowning the Zhanaozen protest in blood. At least 70 people were killed when the police opened fire on the peaceful and unarmed demonstration. For two weeks, the whole city was held in terror with mass arrests, tortures and disappearances. 37 of the most active protesters were put on trial and sentenced to prison terms of up to seven years.
For five days after the shootings, a general strike raged across the region, with protest meetings in the oil-fields themselves. In the following year, two short political strikes were held demanding the release of the imprisoned oil workers. In the three years since the strike, there have been more than 20 major strikes in the Mangystau region. In May, following the strike a just as dramatic strike took place at the “Kazakhmys” corporation which gained a 100% pay rise for the workers.
Socialist Movement Kazakhstan and the trade union “Zhanartu” call for:
We call for protests to commemorate this event outside Kazakhstan embassies or other points of Kazakh interest on or around the 16th December.
As we reported previously on this site, Roza Tuletaeva, one of the active leaders of the Zhanaozen strike has been released from prison.
Originally sentenced to 7 years, her sentence was reduced on appeal to 5 years. In the summer she was refused release on parole so her release has been unexpected.
Undoubtedly this is a result of the international solidarity campaign and the fact that her case is being discussed by the UN committee on torture. The European Parliament has also passed four resolutions about the Zhanaozen events which have demanded the immediate release of participants in the months’ long strike.
It is not ruled out either that Roza’s release is linked to possible early elections in the country so that President Nazarbayev not only removes a factor leading to discontent in the country but is also able to strengthen his “liberal” credentials before the west. But we now need to step up the campaign to obtain the release of those others who are still in prison, including Maksat Dosmagambetov, who has suffered severe torture and as a result of his beatings, now suffers facial bone cancer.
Roza has been one of those who has not been afraid to speak out about who was responsible for the events in Zhenaozen on 16th December 2011. As a result she has become a symbol for freedom of speech and human rights in Kazakhstan.
“I have just today been able to get t
hrough on the telephone to Rosa Tuletaeva
to convey my heart-felt congratulations on her release from prison! Since yesterday she has been getting phone calls from all over Kazakhstan with congratulations from supporters and friends! Rosa w
aited for my call to be able to pass on a huge thankyou to all the people who supported her while in prison.
“She said that it was the people’s support which helped her survive! Anyone who wants to congratulate Rosa personally can contact her on her phone: 7022969864.”
More details to follow.
See previous articles about Rosa and the Zhanaozen workers’ struggles on this site.
The chair of Campaign Kazakhstan, Mick Whale, has written an update on the situation in Kazakhstan for the publication, Socialism Today. In it he raises the need for solidarity initiatives with workers who continue to fight the bosses and the regime. He also speaks of the plight of political prisoners – the oil-workers’ leaders, the lawyer Vadim Kuramshin and writer Aron Atabek (see previous articles on this site). Please renew your efforts to raise money for legal and other aid to victims of Nazarbayev’s dictatorship.
Recent revelations of how former British prime minister Tony Blair advised the Kazakhstan president to ‘spin’ the December 2011 massacre of up to 70 oil workers in Zhanaozen, in the western province of Mangistau, Kazakhstan, has again brought attention to the brutal character of the regime
. The fallout from this bloody repression continues.
While there has been nothing on the scale of the Zhanaozen massacre since, the Kazakhstan regime has, if anything, become more repressive. Activities by independent trade unions or activists who call for strikes have been criminalised. The “distribution of false rumours” (calling for a strike) is punishable by up to twelve years in prison. The charge of “inciting social disorder”, which was used against the oil workers, has been strengthened. Any gathering of opponents to the regime of president Nursultan Nazarbayev is attacked by state forces. Activists face jail terms for public order offences. Independent trade unionists and social activists face daily harassment, ranging from being followed by state forces to being threatened with violence, beaten up and detained on fabricated charges.
Even rich oligarchs, like Mukhtar Ablyazov, who oppose Nazarbayev, claim they face intimidation and have been forced into exile. Ablyazov is wanted by the regime (and by Russian and Ukrainian authorities) in relation to the disappearance of $6 billion from the BTA bank of which he was chairman from 2005-09.
Ablyazov has been detained by police in France, pending a challenge by his lawyers to an extradition order served on him there. He claims that he is innocent, that the charges are fabricated to silence a political opponent, and that he will not get a fair hearing if he returns from exile. The fact that the Kazakhstan authorities, in collusion with Italian officials, effectively kidnapped his wife and daughter and flew them back to Kazakhstan suggests that he is probably correct!
The media in Kazakhstan is heavily censored. Only officially accepted opposition parties are allowed to take part in elections. Nazarbayev’s political party, Nur-Otan (Light of Fatherland), usually gets more than 80% of the total vote. There are two other ‘opposition parties’ with seats: Ak Zhol (Democratic Party of Kazakhstan Bright Path), formed following a split in the liberal opposition by those who want to work with Nazarbayev; and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan, a pro-Nazarbayev group set up in opposition to the main Communist Party of Kazakhstan (CPK), which was at least anti-Nazarbayev.
Despite an international outcry from the legal profession, lawyers who are associated with opposition to the regime are imprisoned on fabricated charges. Well-known cultural figures like the poet Aron Atabek are also incarcerated. The Kazakhstan regime uses old Stalinist prison camps in remote parts of the country to try to intimidate and break opposition elements. Vadim Kuramshin, an award-winning lawyer, has been imprisoned in Karaganda province. This area became infamous in the 1960s and 1970s as the centre of the network of gulags featured in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch. Rosa Tuletayava, one of the leaders of the Zhanaozen oil workers, has also been moved to a jail that is virtually inaccessible to her family.
Nazarbayev showed no remorse in relation to the Zhanaozen massacre when he chose the first anniversary, 16 December 2012, to launch his ‘forward plan’: ‘Kazakhstan 2050’. It contains several priorities, including, “Introducing a ‘zero tolerance’ principle towards disorder”. Ironically, this subheading is in the section titled, ‘Further Strengthening of the Statehood and Development of the Kazakhstan Democracy’.
Nazarbayev supports democracy as long as there is no serious opposition. He allows people to vote as long as they vote for him, his candidates and policies. He is a dictator in all but name. On the list of most corrupt countries in the world, Kazakhstan comes 140th out of 177! This corruption extends to all areas of life. Laws which on paper protect society from abuse are ignored if it suits the interests of Nazarbayev and his extended family. For example, it is alleged that building regulations were ignored to allow his son-in-law to build a new shopping mall in the country’s main city, Almaty.
A potentially more serious example concerns the Eurasian National Resources Company. It holds mining interests in Kazakhstan and Africa, and is controlled by Alexander Maskievitch, a long-term friend of Nazarbayev. It is now the subject of a serious fraud investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police. The Independent newspaper in Britain reported: “Kazakh government involvement in the UK machinations has led some observers in the central Asian state to speculate that the Nazarbayev family have equity interests in the company”. The regime survives by a combination of brutal repression and the international support of imperialism, in particular through giant oil and gas companies making vast profits in the area.
Nazarbayev likes to present himself as a great patriot. Indeed, Kazakhstan 2050 includes the aspiration that it will be one of the top 30 countries by 2050. This is a supreme irony since Nazarbayev has presided over the wholesale sell-off of oil, gas and mineral reserves to foreign companies. He has used his position as head of state to accumulate a massive fortune for himself and his family. This personal wealth has been ‘patriotically’ deposited in banks in southeast Asia! Kazakhstan was one of the first of the former Stalinist states to fully open itself up for imperialist interests. Western and Chinese big business needed little encouragement to ‘cooperate’ in exploiting and profiting from its rich natural resources.
Foreign capital has brought wealth into the country. In fact, Kazakhstan’s GDP was reportedly growing at 10% until the global crisis of 2008-09. Since then, growth has slowed to 5% per annum. With Russia on the verge of a new recession, it is likely that Kazakhstan’s economy will slow down further. Most of the oil, gas and mineral sector is still part-owned by the state which, in turn, is controlled by Nazarbayev and his cronies. From time to time, the state sells off its interests in these companies to giant multinationals like Chevron.
This liberalisation has massively distorted both the economy and the life of the workers in it. The old state-owned system within the USSR meant that Kazakhstan was effectively under the control of the one-party regime based in Moscow. This meant that production was ultimately geared towards maintaining the interests of the Russian-based bureaucracy, which dominated the whole of the Soviet Union. Nazarbayev was the first native Kazakh to hold the post of general secretary of the CPK. Previous post holders had all been Russian.
Because of the state ownership and planning, and despite the bureaucratic methods by which the CPK ran Kazakhstan, the country did develop from a predominantly backward agricultural economy to one which had a relatively balanced industrial base. Manufacturing and construction existed alongside mining and drilling for gas and oil. Agriculture remained important but became mechanised. Though still lagging behind the advanced capitalist states in the west, infrastructure was developed.
Democratic control by the workers, crucial to a healthy workers’ state, was stifled by the Russian and Kazakh bureaucracies. All opposition was rooted out. But the economic development of the country brought certain social gains for the working class and poor farmers. Health, education and housing were readily and cheaply available. Despite the lack of democracy and choice under the old system, many older Kazakhstan workers now look back with some nostalgia on the ‘Soviet’ past.
Since the move to a market economy, Kazakhstan has been opened up to multinational vultures. From a relatively developed ‘mixed’ economy, it is now based on the export of primary goods, providing oil, gas and minerals for western imperialism and China. Reports estimate that oil and gas account for more than 80% of Kazakhstan’s GDP. This compares with about 20% in 1990. Alongside this, the privatisation of land and the breakup of collective farms saw the displacement and impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of land-labourers who migrated to the towns in search of work.
The social impact has been dramatic. Many workers have been forced out of their traditional family homes to move to the oil and gas fields. This has created a housing crisis. Shantytowns have grown up in some areas, including on the outskirts of Almaty. It was one such settlement, Shanyrak, where huge battles took place in 2006 against the bulldozers and armed forces sent in to clear the land for private development.
Some of the vast wealth in Kazakhstan has trickled down to a small middle class comprised mostly of managers in the gas and oil industries. This is unlikely to be sustained or substantial enough to create a meaningful social layer between the ruling elite and the working class. Certain groups of workers have also seen modest increases in pay but most are materially worse off than they were before the re-establishment of capitalism.
The recent fall in world commodity prices has exposed the dependence of Kazakhstan’s economy on the export of raw materials. In February, the Kazakhstan authorities were forced to devalue the tenge currency by 8%. Further devaluations, totalling an 18% reduction, are an indication of the relative weakness of the economy. They were aimed at maintaining the level of exports. However, the impact on workers in the country has been dramatic.
Yerbolat Dossayev, minister for economy and budget planning, urged people to remain calm when the devaluation took place. He claimed: “Over 80% of the basic goods are produced in our country. The prices for these goods will not be increased”. But Kazakh banks and finance houses warned that there could be inflation. In Almaty, many shops closed to re-price their goods, and a number of spontaneous street protests took place. The devaluation has boosted the share prices of giant firms like the mining company, Kazakhmys, but at the expense of workers’ living standards. Working-class people with mortgages, already having difficulty repaying them, were also hit.
It is not just falling commodity prices and devaluation that threaten the stability of Kazakhstan’s economy and the regime which profits from it. Increasingly, Nazarbayev is caught between contradictory international pressures. Historically, the Kazakh regime has been linked to Russia. This has continued into the post-Stalinist era. Russian remains, with Kazakh, an official language of Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev has cemented these links by taking Kazakhstan into a customs union – the Eurasian Economic Union (EES) – with Russia and Belarus. Officially an economic agreement, Russian president Vladimir Putin undoubtedly sees this as a potential political or even military bloc.
The problem for Nazarbayev is that, if Kazakhstan backs Russia against the EU or US imperialism in the conflict over Ukraine, for example, it risks sanctions and the loss of investment from western imperialism. This could cripple the economy and destabilise the regime. Up to now this has appeared unlikely, given Nazarbayev’s craven attitude towards the west, not to mention the huge investments which the west has in Kazakhstan. But it cannot be ruled out completely.
Alexander Lukhashenko, president of Belarus, was initially enthusiastic, stating at the EES signing ceremony that it would gradually turn into a foundation for political, military and humanitarian cooperation. As Russia started to flex its military muscle in relation to Ukraine, however, Lukashenko and Nazarbayev distanced themselves from the Kremlin. This course of action was dictated, in part, by fear of economic sanctions from the west. However, both Lukashenko and Nazarbayev have seen the growth of Russian intervention in the former Stalinist states and fear more overt Russian intervention in their own countries.
At the beginning of September, Putin even denied the legitimacy of Kazakhstan’s independence from Russia, stating: “There has never been a country called Kazakhstan… it is purely the product of the current president”. This is an open threat to Nazarbayev that Russia could intervene if Kazakhstan attempted to distance itself too much from Moscow, particularly in the north where there is a concentration of ethnic Russians.
The Kazakhstan government is in a contradictory situation over Ukraine and has so far managed to remain silent about it. But, as the tension has escalated with Russian forces directly involved, raising the possibility of some form of de facto partition in southeast Ukraine, Kazakhstan could be put on the spot and have to choose which side it supports. How the situation in Ukraine impacts on surrounding countries is not easily predictable. The situation remains very fluid. But Putin’s remarks about Kazakhstan are an indication that there can be other areas of dispute in the area of the ex-Soviet Union.
China initially adopted a neutral position in relation to Ukraine but, by ignoring western imperialism’s sanctions, is in effect supporting Russia. There are other parts of the world, for example Africa and the Middle East, where Russia and China could find themselves in conflict with each other. These tensions can also cause problems for Kazakhstan in the future.
China has a border with eastern Kazakhstan and is the largest single export market for the Kazakh economy. The gradual slowing down of the Chinese economy will affect its need for commodities and its imports of raw materials. At the same time, growing unrest among the Chinese working class could find its reflection within Kazakhstan.
The Kazakh language is part of the Turkic group. Certainly, in the oil-rich south-western areas of Kazakhstan there is an affinity with Turkey, and the Islamic religion is more obviously visible. Many Turks work in the Kazakh oil fields, and the demonstrations earlier this year against the Erdoğan regime in Turkey over the tragic mining disaster at Soma will have resonated with workers in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s official religion is Islam although, at present, there are few open signs of right-wing political Islam in the country. Periodically, the KNB (secret police) ‘uncover’ a plot linked to Islamic extremism. However, it has been reported that hundreds of native Kazakh Islamists have gone to fight in Syria on behalf of the anti-Assad forces, while Bashar al-Assad’s main superpower ally is Russia. There are even unconfirmed reports that prisoners have been released from Kazakh jails with the unofficial support of the regime to go and fight in Syria.
Particularly in the south, there appears to be a growth in support for Islam, and an increase in attacks on police stations and other government buildings. It is not clear whether these are organised by agents provocateurs to give the state grounds for further repression. If the state is using Islamic fundamentalism in this way, it is a very dangerous strategy which could easily backfire. While an unlikely development, the growth of right-wing political Islam could not be entirely ruled out in Kazakhstan, particularly if the working class is unable to mount a challenge to the dictatorship.
International factors may destabilise the Nazarbayev regime, but it falls to the working class to remove him from power. When they move into action workers will quickly realise that the way forward is not to replace Nazarbayev and his cronies with another oligarch like Ablyazov. Rather, the task before Kazakhstan’s working class is the establishment of a democratic workers’ state which would use the oil, gas and mineral wealth to create a real paradise on this earth for working people. The struggle for a workers’ state or genuine socialism in Kazakhstan could be the impetus for similar developments in Russia, Turkey, China and elsewhere.
It would be wrong to underestimate the difficulties which the working class face. The brutal dictatorship makes basic organisation very difficult. All manner of obstacles, however, have not stopped some heroic struggles taking place. Against all the odds, and new anti-union laws, independent trade unions do exist. Strikes happen and have been successful. While, unsurprisingly after Zhanaozen, oil workers have been less militant, in 2012 copper miners in central Kazakhstan occupied the mines and won pay rises of 100%! More recently, they were campaigning for the renationalisation of the mines.
The threats and state intimidation have not stopped social movements over housing continuing in Astana, Almaty, Shimkent and elsewhere. Local demonstrations, which are officially illegal, have included protests to defend people from eviction. On a number of occasions, activists have been arrested, charged, fined and even jailed for a few weeks. Some have gone on hunger strike in protest. It is a sign of Nazarbayev’s weakness that he has not been able to totally destroy the workers’ opposition. Nevertheless, the constant threat of jailings and physical attacks make taking part in protests extremely dangerous.
Revolution and counter-revolution walk side by side in Kazakhstan. The lack of social reserves for the regime means that any spark – a strike, economic emergency or political clash – can lead to a protest which could quickly escalate into a mass movement, like those seen in recent years in Egypt and elsewhere. Such a movement could isolate and force out the regime.
It is unlikely that Nazarbayev would hand over the reins of power without a struggle. If he did, it would probably be to one of his family. At 73 years old, rumours abound that his health is declining. He cannot go on forever. Any dictatorship faces a potential crisis when a change of leadership takes place. The regime appears to be preparing for an election. One reason for this could be to try and clear out any unreliable elements from office that could make a handover to a new ‘Nazarbayev’ difficult. However long Nazarbayev lives, a key task, in very difficult conditions, is to prepare a political cadre which can develop workers’ organisations and opposition movements into a united fighting force that can bring down the dictatorship.
Socialists in Britain and across the world cannot substitute themselves for the Kazakhstan workers but we can play an important role in assisting them. Campaign Kazakhstan was established precisely to organise support for workers in Kazakhstan and to try and isolate the regime of Nazarbayev abroad.
We need to continue to expose the brutality of the regime. We need to highlight the terrible conditions in Kazakhstan’s prisons and to campaign for the release of political prisoners like Vadim Kuramshin and Rosa Tuletayeva. Assistance in this can be as simple as signing an online petition or writing a letter of protest to the Kazakhstan embassy.
We need to challenge those outside Kazakhstan who support the Nazarbayev regime, including Tony and Cherie Blair. Tony Blair has been paid around £9 million to advise Nazarbayev on how to appear to be a democrat. Cherie’s law firm has received fees of $1,000 an hour for its services!
We also need to expose the multinational companies which implicitly condone repression and murder. When Austria’s campaign held a protest at a football match involving Kazakhstan’s national team in Vienna, it had a huge impact in Kazakhstan and lifted the spirits of activists.
We need more trade union branches and other organisations to affiliate and donate money to Campaign Kazakhstan. Money raised has gone predominantly to help victims of oppression in Kazakhstan itself. Can you take a simple resolution to your trade union branch asking for affiliation and support?
I was privileged to visit Zhanaozen last year. The importance of international solidarity is best expressed through the appreciation voiced by one of the activists I met. He had survived for twelve hours on the square after the killing spree by government forces. He had been slipping in and out of consciousness. His left leg is now four inches shorter as a result of his bullet wound injuries. He had not worked since the massacre. I was able to give him a donation from our campaign to help him with his medical and living expenses. He thanked me for the money but added that, even more important was the knowledge that workers in other countries were standing in solidarity.
Campaign Kazakhstan needs you to build support for us. Help us continue to campaign in solidarity with workers throughout Kazakhstan.
News has reached Campaign Kazakhstan that Vadim Kuramshin, the renowned political prisoner in Kazakhstan, has been badly beaten and intimidated. Before his imprisonment, he was an active campaigner against torture in the prisons and prison colonies of Kazakhstan.
Due to the clamp down on information we can only give a few details. During the latest visit by his wife, Vadim was accompanied by five guards with truncheons to prevent him speaking openly. We are awaiting the results of a proper investigation which should be carried out within a month.
At the beginning of April, thanks to campaigning by his supporters – both within Kazakhstan and internationally by Campaign Kazakhstan – Vadim was transferred from a strict prison regime to a regime in which conditions are supposed to be more relaxed. However, it is clear that the prison authorities had other intentions.
Worrying information has been appearing for some time – from a number of sources, as well as from Vadim himself – that he was being openly harassed and that attempts were being made to find any excuse to punish Vadim. The prison authorities were not able to make open attacks on Vadim at least until the end of last year. Then, because of the worsening situation, Vadim felt so concerned he announced a hunger strike at the end of February. After concessions from the prosecutor’s office, Vadim abandoned his protest.
During a recent visit from his lawyer, however, Vadim showed signs of bruising and one of his eyes was bloodshot. Although it was clear that he had been attacked, Vadim himself refused to confirm this and was more concerned that he should be transferred to a new prison.
When Vadim’s wife, Ekaterina, tried to raise the issue with the prison authorities, she was refused the right to even register a complaint. She did not want to push the issue too hard as Vadim was due a three day visit from his family.
During this visit, Ekaterina noticed that Vadim was obviously under psychological pressure – he had difficulty expressing his thoughts, was nervous and hardly ever sleeps. When she asked Vadim how he had received the bruises, he simply said he “had fallen”. Vadim did say, however, that the prison authorities had warned him that if any more complaints were made, “the next time he would be beaten by those who had not yet managed to do so!”.
Ekaterina comments that both she and her husband are “angry to the depths of our souls at such threats” and she is calling for Vadim’s immediate transfer to a colony nearer to the capital.
On the way back from her visit, Ekaterina’s car caught fire and she was nearly involved in an accident. Her car had been in the care of the prison authorities during her visit. She comments: “Of course, I very much want to think that this was an accident, but the specialists think differently. Who knows? Maybe they have moved from (threatening) words to action!”.
Campaign Kazakhstan backs the protest made by Vadim to the head of the prison security, Zhomart Aitbaev, at the attempts made to discredit and harass his partner Ekaterina Kuramshina. We demand from the prison authorities in Kazakhstan to cease this brutal treatment of this innocent person. We also demand that Vadim Kuramshin is provided with the medical assistance he requires.
This Aitbaev is the same security chief who, on 1st November 2013, organised for thugs from the prison’s so called «press hut” to make a sexual attack on Vadim. This led Vadim to cut the veins in his wrist in protest. Notwithstanding international protests, Aitbaev, far from being censured, has since then been promoted.
Campaign Kazakhstan calls for letters to be sent to the authorities demanding a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding the recent beating of Vadim. As his lawyer, Dmitrii Baranov, explains: “Even before this attack, Vadim was concerned that something of this sort would happen, or that he would face provocations from his ‘cell-mate’ trying to create a conflict”. He had reported that the other person sharing the cell with him is constantly trying to create an argument. Vadim assured his lawyer that he would do all in his power not to succumb to such provocations.
Whoever has ordered these attacks and whoever has carried them out will be discovered. For now, just a few words from Vadim just after his latest beating: “It’s evening, I’m just coming to myself, I’m filling my stomach with fortifying tea and look out of the window where the icy night is already setting in. I sit down, look out into the dark, turning over the events of the last couple of days in my mind”.
Campaign Kazakhstan is demanding that these brutal attacks on Vadim Kuramshin cease, that those responsible for the attacks are brought to justice. We also support the demand for Vadim to be transferred from his current prison to a prison nearer the capital Astana. But we are committed to campaigning for him to be released altogether and for all charges against him to be dropped. (See previous articles on this site.)
Please send letters and protests to the Kazakhstan embassy responsible for your country (listed here). If you can send a brief letter (in any language) to Vadim, it can have an effect on the authorities and, when it finally reaches him, lift his spirits.
Address to:- Vadim Kuramshin, Uchrezhdenie EC 164/4, Gornyi posiolok (Zhaman Sopka), Esilskiy rayon, North-Kazakhstan oblast, 150500, Kazakhstan.
Letter sent to Kazakhstan Embassy in London from Mick Whale, Secretary of Campaign Kazakhstan:
To the authorities in Kazakhstan:
We have learned with great anger of the treatment of the wrongly imprisoned human rights lawyer, Vadim Kuramshin, being held at Uchrezhdenie EC 164/4, Gornyi posiolok (Zhaman Sopka), 150500, Kazakhstan.
We have long been campaigning for his release and all charges against him to be dropped. Instead of this happening, we have received reports of brutal beatings and intimidations that are badly affecting his physical and psychological condition.
We demand that all such cruel treatment cease, that Vadim be moved immediately to be nearer to his loved ones, that they themselves do not become the victims of extra-judicial violence. We are calling for a an immediate review of his case to not only give him back his freedom but clear his name and agree compensation from the authorities who have wronged him so callously.
We believe the vile treatment of Vadim Kuramshin is one illustration of the brutal suppression of all political and democratic rights in Kazakhstan. We will continue to campaign for social justice and an end to the Nazarbaev dictatorship in Kazakhstan – a regime supported by British and other governments in the interests of greed and profit.
Maksat Dosmagambetov speaking at a press conference in Moscow during the strike
Last week Kinzhigali Suieyov and Mukhtar Umbetov, president and vice-president of the Mangystau trade union (which represents oil-workers and is affiliated to Zhanartu), visited Maksat Dosmagambetov and Naryn Dzharilgasinov, two of the oil-workers imprisoned following the massacre by state forces in Zhanaozen in 2011. A couple of weeks earlier, they both visited the well-known oil-workers’ leader Rosa Tuletaeva.
The trade unionists, representing the jailed strikers, were there to ensure that the conditions in which the strikers are being held are acceptable. Together with Rosa Tuletaeva, Maksat and Naryn have recently been transferred to a prison colony not far from Aktau where they are to serve the remainder of their sentence in less severe conditions.
They wished to thank everyone who has participated in the campaign for their release, as they think that it has helped ensure that they have been transferred to better conditions. Rosa, Maksat and Naryn are maintaining contact with the trade union.
Campaign Kazakhstan coordinated pickets and protests world-wide at news of the mass killing of participants in the peaceful demonstration of striking oil-workers and supporters in Zhanaozen on 16th December 2011. When strikers were viciously ‘punished’ with long sentences in prison, further protests were organised throughout the world including by workers and left activists throughout Russia and Ukraine. The World Federation of Trade Unions has also taken up their plight.
Irish socialist and Member of the European Parliament, Paul Murphy, who had visited the oil-workers to give support to their struggle, played a key role in preparing and moving a resolution in the European Parliament on Zhanaozen and on democratic rights in Kazakhstan. He also organised a number of public ‘hearings’ on these issues in the Brussels headquarters.
The solidarity campaign in support of the imprisoned oil-workers will continue. The authorities, sometimes to create an image of “liberalisation”, can under pressure of such activities and protests make some concessions and relax the conditions in which worker activists are held. According to recent information, another workers’ activist, Kanat Zhusipbaev has been moved from prison to the comparatively better condition of a prison colony.