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Police In Astana Detain Dozens Of Protesting Oil Workers From Volatile Zhanaozen


Oil workers from Zhanaozen take part in a protest outside the Kazakh Energy Ministry in Astana on April 11.

Police in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, have detained dozens of oil workers from the Central Asian nation’s southwestern town of Zhanaozen, who were demanding jobs after their company lost a tender in recent weeks that would have provided work.

Artur Alkhasov of the Kazakh Bureau of Human Rights and Rule of Law told RFE/RL that more than 80 former workers of the BerAli Manghystau Company were detained on April 11 after they spent a night in front of the Energy Ministry’s building, demanding jobs at the OzenMunaiGaz company, a subsidiary of the oil-rich nation’s KazMunaiGaz energy giant.

The workers said they lost their jobs after their company had lost a tender for oil work in the energy-rich western region of Manghystau recently.

Last week, dozens of women in Zhanaozen staged a protest demanding permanent jobs for their sons and husbands, while hundreds of former oil-industry employees gathered in front of the offices of OzenMunaiGaz demanding jobs.

Zhanaozen was the scene of mass anti-government rallies in 2011 staged by oil workers that resulted in the deaths of at least 16 people when police opened fire on unarmed protesters.

In early January last year, other protests in the volatile town over abrupt energy price hikes quickly spread across the tightly controlled former Soviet republic and led to violent clashes in the country’s largest city, Almaty, and elsewhere that left at least 238 people, including 19 law enforcement officers, dead.

President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev then moved to deprive influential former President Nursultan Nazarbaev of his lifetime post atop the Kazakh Security Council, taking the post himself.

The crisis prompted Toqaev to seek help from troops from the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to quell the unrest.

Toqaev’s moves since then appear aimed at weakening Nazarbaev, his relatives and close allies.