10/10/2011, 00.00
KAZAKHSTAN
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Kazakh Communist Party suspended for supporting strike

Kazakhstan’s government is bent on crushing the months-long oil workers strike with prison and fines for those who dare support strikers. Amid world indifference, the conditions for workers have gone from bad to worse with many families are running out of food. So far, one person committed suicide and more are killed by “persons unknown”.
Almaty (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Communist Party of Kazakhstan (CPK) has had its activities suspended for six months because it co-founded a movement to monitor an ongoing strike by oil workers. Management at KazMunaiGaz continues to reject workers’ demands, making their predicament even more dramatic.

A court in Almaty ruled on 4 October that the CPK violated the law on public organisations by creating, along with the unregistered Algha (Forward) party, the People's Front movement, which has been monitoring the ongoing mass strike in the western province of Manghystau.

CPK leader Ghaziz Aldamzharov told RFE/RL that he was fined in what he describes a “political” verdict against his party’s support for the protest.

In post-Soviet Kazakhstan, ruled by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the CPK is one of the main opposition parties, and its suspension might be a prelude to its exclusion from next year’s elections.

The situation of thousands of striking workers is getting worse at the plants of the Qarazhanbasmunai and OzenMunaiGaz oil and gas corporations in Manghystau, which are controlled by KazMunaiGaz. They have been on strike for nearly five months for better wages and the right to set up their own trade unions.

Backed by the government and helped by world indifference, KazMunaiGaz has rejected any concessions. It has also denied “false” rumours about talks with workers or that it was willing to rehire 989 workers it had sacked for participating in the strike. Timur Kulibaev, Nazarbaev’ son-in-law, said workers “violated labour laws”.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the Qarazhanbasmunai oil company's labour unions, Natalya Sokolova, was quickly found guilty in August of "igniting social hatred" and given a six-year jail term. Several of the fired workers have been brought to trial on charges of organising unlawful mass gatherings.

At the same time, the families of hundreds of striking workers are running out of food.

On 3 October, Abai Abenov, a 30-year-old electrician hanged himself. His is the third death purportedly connected with the ongoing strike. Saule Qarabalaeva, 18, a daughter of Qudaibergen Qarabalaev, a leading activist for the striking oil workers, disappeared on 21 August and was found dead four days later. A second activist, Zhaqsylyq Turbaev, was killed by unknown assailants the same month.

Most of the 10,000 workers who went on strike in May are back to work. Others resist with the support of volunteers, saying that they cannot live “like slaves”.
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