On 16 December 2011, a seven-month strike by oil workers in Kazakhstan was brought to an end by a massacre: the security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators at Zhanaozen. At least 16 people were killed, and 60 wounded. In June 2012, oil workers and other activists were imprisoned for terms of up to six years. All the evidence points to the use of torture during pre-trial detention. This page aims to inform you about campaigns in the UK in support of the oil workers, and provide links to more information.
To read a detailed account of the oil workers’ strike, see Zhanaozen: worker organisation and repression.
Update, December 2021
Update, January 2020
Update, April 2017
After a renewed bout of trade union organising in the oil field at the end of 2016, two militants, Nurbek Kashakbayev and Amin Yeleusinov, were arrested. In April Kashakbayev was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. An international trade union campaign began in his defence.
Update, December 2015
The continuing campaign for justice for those murdered on 16 December 2011, and those tortured by the police and unjustly convicted by the courts, is reported here.
News about an international challenge to Kazakhstan’s anti-trade union laws, and about some victims of repression in Zhanaozen, is here.
The Justice for Kazakhstan Oil Workers group in London, together with trade unionists in Russia, Ukraine, France and other countries, will continue to support the oil workers of Zhanaozen. I’ll put information here as and when I get it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to stay in touch.
Film Zhanaozen: the unknown tragedy now (Dec 2014) available on line
Join the open facebook group here
Monday 16 December 2013. Demonstration for Justice for Kazakhstan’s Oil Workers. 10.0 am at the Foreign Office, Whitehall, and 12.0 midday at the Kazakh embassy, Pall Mall, London. Report on the Platform web site here. Download a leaflet here.
An open letter was handed in to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, signed by the RMT union Offshore Energy Branch, which represents British oil workers, Labour MPs and trade union officials.
Wednesday 4 December 2013. Showing of the film Zhanaozen: the Unknown Tragedy at 6.0 pm, at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Square, London WC1. Organised by the Solicitors International Human Rights Group. Download the flyer here. This showing was followed by a panel discussion in which director Yulia Mazurova and producer Denis Bilunov explained how they had put the film together. Film producer Tony Garnett came to express his support: “this is a terrific film”, he said, and urged trade unions to get involved in distributing it. Russian trade union activist Kirill Buketov spoke about the international campaign in support of the imprisoned Kazakh oil workers.
Saturday 19 October 2013. A session at the Anarchist Bookfair in London will discuss: “Russia and Kazakhstan: free political prisoners”. 5.0 pm, room 240, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS. More information here. Note: that was a pretty successful session!
Trade union campaigning
Union Solidarity International is coordinating support for the Zhanaozen oil workers among trades unionists. Visit its campaign page here.
On 11 December 2013, the International Trade Union Confederation, which brings together national union federations in 161 countries, wrote to the Kazakh president urging the release of seven people jailed as a result of the Zhanaozen events. That’s a letter that other union bodies could well follow up on.
News and analysis
Zhanaozen: worker organisation and repression (December 2013) A detailed feature article about the 2011 strike
Information material and reports