Striking Kazakh oil workers confront riot police

By Brien Southward

Oil workers in the oil-producing Mangistau region of Kazakhstan took to the streets again today to demand information on who ordered police to fire on protestors during a demonstration on December 16 in the oil town of Zhanaozen. On that day, which marked the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence from the USSR, at least 14 protestors were shot and killed by riot police.

The official casualty toll, given by Kazakh Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kasymov in a government meeting, counts 17 police officers among the 110 who were wounded in the clashes. Some protestors believe the death toll exceeds the official figure of at least 14, but government spokesman Nurdaulet Suindikov says that “rumors about some mass bloodshed are absolutely unfounded, misleading and provocative.”

The authorities in Kazakhstan claim that the police only opened fire after being attacked by “hooligans” who were threatening civilians. President Nazarbayev says that maintaining stability in the country is his main priority, blaming the clashes on purported criminals who were torching buildings and plundering ATMs.

Protestors say that thousands of workers have been laid off for demanding higher wages, and that some of them had not been paid for their work in several months. Deputy Prime Minster Umirzak Shukeyev says that the sacked oil workers would be offered jobs at mining companies at 80-90% of their previous wages, including relocation grants, he claims.

So far the protests have yet to spread beyond the region, but the daily rallies in Aktau, capital of Mangistau, seem to be a sign of growing political unrest. Political analysts say the protests are an indicator of public pressure on President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 71, a former steelworker who has ruled the nation for more than two decades, to relax the authoritarian government he has built up since the Soviet era.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


The Time is Right for Optimum Reliability: Capital-Intensive Industries and Asset Performance Management

Imagine a plant that is no longer at risk of a random shutdown. Imagine not worrying about losing...

Going Digital: The New Normal in Oil & Gas

In this whitepaper you will learn how Keystone Engineering, ONGC, and Saipem are using software t...

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...

Latest PennEnergy Jobs

PennEnergy Oil & Gas Jobs