Esenbek Ukteshbayev
Esenbek Ukteshbayev, joint chair
of the YRYSTY Almatinskii train wagon repair
factory strike committee in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kazakh dictatorship denounced

Trade union leader appeals for support from British workers

Report by Corinna Lotz

The nightmare that is Kazakhstan under president Nursultan Nazarbayev was brought home to London trade unionists earlier this week.

Esenbek Ukteshbayev, joint chair of the YRYSTY Almatinskii train wagon repair factory strike committee in Almaty, explained to members of the South East Region of the TUC that people were beginning to organise from below against the “authoritarian dictatorship”.

Attacks on opposition leaders are a regular occurrence in Kazakhstan. Union leader Sovet Tokenov was hospitalized at the end of October after being hit while walking in the town of Zhana Ozen in the western part of the country. Fellow workers at the OzenMunaiGaz oil company say the incident was to warn him and others off. Local police confirmed that Tokenov was hit by a BMW with Almaty license plates while crossing a road. They said the car had not been located.

The former Soviet Republic is probably better known through the antics of Sacha Baran Cohen’s ludicrous alter-ego Borak, but it shares with nearby central Asian states the dubious distinction of suffering from a corrupt nepotistic dictatorship.

It is also among Prince Andrew’s favourite places to visit. He has visited this secretive country six times in seven years. The prince appears to enjoy close relationships with Kazakh business people.

The Kazakh president has declared his intention to run again in the 2012 presidential elections. If he wins, which is likely, he could be in power until 2017 – a 28-year period of rule. So far Nazarbayev has been in power since 1989, since before the break-up of the Soviet Union, having passed special legislation to give him exemption from time-limits on presidential terms.

But workers are defiantly organising independently from the state-controlled official unions. Oil workers, miners, health workers, teachers and dozens of other social groups are coming together to create an opposition movement, according to Ukteshbayev.

“We don’t even have the most basic democratic rights,” he said. Anyone who opposed the state faced repressive measures and physical attacks. Opponents were subjected to framed-up criminal cases and jumped up charges.

He asks organisations in the UK to pass motions condemning the Nazarbayev regime and to support the opposition movement. Heads of state will be travelling to the Kazakh capital Astana in December to attend the summit meeting of Organisation for Security and Co-Operation. Opposition movements believe that the Nazarbayev regime wants to use the summit as an opportunity to maintain the pretence that some form of democracy exists in the country.

9 November 2010

Messages of support can be sent to: Esenbek Ukteshbayev -

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