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Striking Kazakh Oil Workers Quit Ruling Party


One of the strikers' demands is for the release of Natalya Sokolova, who provided legal support to employees at the Qarazhanbas oil and gas fields in the Manghystau region.

One of the strikers' demands is for the release of Natalya Sokolova, who provided legal support to employees at the Qarazhanbas oil and gas fields in the Manghystau region.

ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- Thousands of striking oil workers have gone to the ruling Nur-Otan party's headquarters in western Kazakhstan to officially quit the party, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Striking OzenMunaiGaz company worker Roza Toretaeva told RFE/RL that nearly 3,000 workers went to the party offices in the town of Zhanaozen and filed papers to quit the party on August 11.

The workers -- who have been on strike since May -- told RFE/RL that they had been forced to join the party anyway and since none of their strike demands have been met, they decided to quit it.

The oil workers are demanding equal rights with foreign workers, a pay raise, no restrictions on independent labor unions in the region, and the immediate release of their lawyer, Natalya Sokolova.

Sokolova, who provided legal support to employees at the Qarazhanbas oil and gas fields in the Manghystau region, was found guilty on August 8 of "igniting social unrest" and jailed for six years.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Nur-Otan party branch in Zhanaozen, Koshbai Qyzanbaev, told RFE/RL that only 1,089 official applications to quit the party ranks had been registered.

He said every application would be "researched separately and individual talks will be held with every person who decided to quit the party."

On August 8, the striking workers gathered in front of Zhanaozen's administrative building and announced their decision to quit Nur-Otan, which is led by President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Nur-Otan officials announced the next day that reports about the workers' mass quitting of the party were false. They said that on the contrary, 882 people had joined Nur-Otan since the massive strike began in May.

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