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Kazakh Oil Workers Reject Offer To Work In Other Regions

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has visited the west of the country, where the unrest took place
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has visited the west of the country, where the unrest took place
AQTAU -- Some 500 Kazakh oil workers have gathered at the Qarazhanbasmunai oil company's office in western Kazakhstan to protest a government offer to work in other parts of the country, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
The protesting oil workers in Aqtau -- many of whom have been fired for taking part in a mass strike that started in May -- have collected signatures for a petition demanding their previous jobs in Manghystau Oblast be returned to them.
The government has offered some 2,000 oil-sector workers in the Manghystau region new jobs in other regions. The offer comes nearly one week after police opened fire at protesting oil workers in the city of Zhanaozen, some 200 kilometers west of the regional capital Aqtau.
The Prosecutor-General's Office says 15 people were killed and almost 100 were injured in the incident on December 16. Other sources say the number of casualties was higher.
On December 17, police clashed with protesters at the Shetpe railway station after the demonstrators blocked a local railway. One protester was shot dead and 12 were injured.
Those events sparked further protests by oil workers and their supporters in Aqtau, which continued at the Qarzhanbasmunai offices.
Aqtau protester Amanghali Balmyrzauly told RFE/RL that the newly appointed chief of QazMunaiGas oil company, Lazzat Qiyinov, met with the protesters and promised them that "ways to resolve the labor conflict will be sought."
But Balmyrzauly said the protesters also want the leadership of Qarazhanbasmunai to meet with the oil workers.
Thousands of Kazakh oil workers in Manghystau Oblast have been striking for more than seven months demanding a salary raise and wages equal to those given to foreign workers, that independent labor unions be allowed to operate freely in the region, and for lawyer Natalya Sokolova be freed from a six-year jail term for "igniting social hatred" in working with the striking workers.

Pensioners Protest

Meanwhile, a dozen pensioners have rallied in the northwestern Kazakh city of Oral, demanding justice for the protesting oil workers killed by security forces last week.
The protesting pensioners held placards saying "We Mourn Those Killed in Zhanaozen, Express Condolences to Their Relatives."
Protester Boris Myasnikov told RFE/RL that he and the other pensioners have seen a video on the Internet that showed police and security forces shooting at unarmed protesters in Zhanaozen on December 16.
That video, which appeared online on December 20, was apparently recorded on a mobile phone by some women from the window of their apartment.
It shows protesters moving away from police, with some protesters throwing rocks at police.
Gunshots can be heard with police advancing behind riot shields. Some protesters are shot as they try to flee. Police then move in, some of them beating protesters who are lying injured on the ground.

Myasnikov said that after "we saw what really happened, we came here to express our views regarding that shooting, as citizens of Kazakhstan."
"That is further proof that people should be treated as humans, but not be shot and then smashed by truncheons," he said. "We have seen it. We, as citizens of Kazakhstan, are now holding a civilian protest and are mourning. We also demand that authorities should pay [compensation] to [the families of those] who died, as is done in the world. But do not label them as terrorists and do not pour dirt on them. We have heard that kind of thing in 1986 [when Kazakh youth protested in Almaty]."
Police were present at the rally and some men in civilian clothes were filming the protesters and the RFE/RL correspondent talking to them.

The Kazakh authorities have defended their use of force -- including the use of firearms -- as being against "hooligans."
Officials have said police only shot into the air and at the ground and the resulting deaths were due to ricocheting bullets.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev has also said that the police acted within their authority under the law. An investigation is to be conducted.

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