Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Kazakhstan: 20 years of independent Kazakhstan – 20 years of authoritarianism! International Day of action on 17 December

20 years of independent Kazakhstan – 20 years of authoritarianism!
International Day of action on 17 December - Press Release

Members of Campaign Kazakhstan in Britain will be holding a protest on Friday 16 December at 12 noon outside the Kazakhstan Embassy at 33 Thurloe Square, London SW 7 2SD

On 16 December 2011, the Republic of Kazakhstan celebrates 20 years as an independent state, a status it achieved as the Soviet Union collapsed. President Nazarbayev and his government are presenting this as twenty years of unprecedented stability and progress. While a clique around the Nazarayev family have become extremely rich and the big  banks, oil companies and other multinationals have gained almost unrestricted access to the country’s wealth and natural resources, the mass of the population live in dire conditions. If they dare to speak out, they face repression and violence. Lawyers, human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists are regularly beaten, jailed and some have been murdered.

Despite all this, EU leaders rush to congratulate President Nazarbayev on Kazakhstan’s 20th anniversary. EuroNews carries paid advertisements which portray Kazakhstan as a haven for business. Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is an adviser to Nazarbayev. The British musician, Paul McCartney, is due to perform at the regime’s official ‘jubilee concert’ to mark independence. We appeal to Paul McCartney to follow the lead of the musician Sting, who cancelled his concert in Kazakhstan, last July, in protest at the violation of the rights of striking oil workers.

16 December is also the seven month anniversary of the start of the strike at the KazMunaiGaz oil company in the West Kazakh Mungystau region and the oil workers will be staging a mass protest on this day. They are demanding the right to form an independent trade union and receive premiums for working in difficult and dangerous conditions. They have faced brutal repression and over 2,500 have been sacked. Their lawyer was jailed for 6 years on the charge of “inciting social conflict”.

Fearing a KazakhstanTahrir Square’, the Nazarbayev regime is becoming even more dictatorial. All the main opposition parties are banned from participating in parliamentary elections next January. The independent trade union, Zhanartu, and the opposition Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, were refused legal registration. Their leaders, Esenbek Ukteshbayev and Ainur Kurmanov, are subject to criminal investigations that could lead to prison sentences of up to 6 years. Fourteen prisoners at the Granit prison have been handed additional sentences of between 5 and 19 years after participating in a protest against torture by the prison authorities. Journalists from Stan TV visiting were badly beaten up following their attempts to cover the oil workers’ dispute.

Campaign Kazakhstan is organising international protests around Kazakhstan’s ‘independence’ celebrations to highlight the real situation facing opposition activists, oil workers and the majority of people in the country.

Campaign Kazakhstan calls for:

- The immediate end to the regime’s repression against opposition activists
- An end to the support given by European and international governments, politicians,    
   diplomats and cultural figures to the authoritarian Nazabyev regime
- The immediate release of the oil workers’ lawyer, Natalia Sokolova
- The dropping of all investigations and charges against Ainur Kurmanov, Esenbek
   Ukteshbayev, and other opposition activists 
- The right to form independent trade unions. For oil workers to receive premiums for
   working in difficult and dangerous conditions. Re-instate all the sacked oil workers
- An end to undemocratic ‘elections’ and attacks on the mass media
- An end to torture in the prisons

Press release by Campaign Kazakhstan in response to an appeal by Zhanartu (All-Kazakhstan Independent Trade Union Federation) and the Kazakhstan ‘Leave Our Homes Alone’ Campaign

For more information contact: Ken Douglas, PO Box 24697, London E11 1HH Telephone 0208 9888762

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