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Solidarity Aid Appeal for Striking Oil Workers in Kazakhstan

Solidarity Aid Appeal for Striking Oil Workers in Kazakhstan

For many months, workers at the Ozenmunaigas oilfield in Kazakhstan have been locked in a bitter battle with the bosses at the state-owned oil company KazMunayGas.

The workers first took action over promised hazard pay that was never delivered. What began as a small strike soon grew into larger activity, drawing in thousands of workers with wider demands. The state's response has been brutal.

Around 1,000 workers have been fired. Two of the workers' elected representatives, unionist Akzhanat Aminov and labor attorney Natalya Sokolova have been arrested. Sokolova has been sentenced to prison for a term of six years for “stirring up social conflict.” The house of another negotiator has been burned to the ground, and Zhalsylyk Turbaev, a leading militant, has been murdered.

The most egregious attack came on December 16, 2011, when state forces moved in to clear the public square in the town of Zhanaozen, where a number of the workers had been camped out in protest. The government came up with a plan for a “public holiday party” as an excuse to carry out the eviction. When the workers refused to leave, the police opened fire on the crowd. The ensuing media, internet and cell phone blackout ordered by the government made the exact details difficult to ascertain, but what is known for sure is that at least ten workers were killed (by the government's own admission), and several hundred more have been injured.

Out of work and under attack for months, with an increasingly uncertain future, these workers are in dire need of assistance just to continue on. In the midst of this struggle they must still provide for themselves and their families. This is a case where every dollar literally will help. The workers are determined to keep fighting, and we can do our part to assist them by helping to make their situation more secure. There is a real chance the workers could succeed. After the December 16 police attacks, unrest spread through the region, with workers at the Kalamkas and Karazhanbas oilfields launching sympathy strikes.

A few months ago, a fund was established to raise money for the striking workers. It is being administered by a number of public/cultural figures in Kazakhstan (trade unionist Igor Kolov, artist Kanat Ibragimov, writer Mukhtar Shakhanov, newspaper editor Ryspek Sarsenbayev, and others), to ensure that every bit goes to those who need it. The account was opened by Socialist Member of the European Parliament, Paul Murphy, who visited the workers earlier this year.

I have been collecting money for these workers since news broke of the December 16 attack. My collection will continue until January 12, 2012. I will send the total amount collected to the workers' fund the following day. To contribute to my collection, send any amount via PayPal or Amazon Payments to paulwasright@gmail.com (If you do not have a PayPal account, and do not wish to set one up, you can go to http://www.paypal.com/xclick/business=paulwasright@gmail.com and click “Don't have a PayPal account?” which will allow you to contribute with a credit or debit card.)

Contributors can also send money on their own by arranging a wire transfer from their bank. The details of the fund's account are:

Workers Solidarity Fund
IBAN BE29 7340 3242 2964
BIC KREDBEBB