Ablyazov – Blair: “Your name will cover lawlessness”

Ablyazov – Blair: “Your name will cover lawlessness”

Author: Mukhtar Ablyazov

Tony Blair’s adviser was invited not to reform, convinced politician Mukhtar Ablyazov. “The sole purpose of Nazarbayev in this project is to use your name as a justification for the outrage which he creates in Kazakhstan”, – he writes in a letter to the British ex-prime minister.

Recalling that “through the sale of natural resources, family Nazarbayevs accumulated in offshore accounts billions of dollars,” Ablyazov emphasizes that “the only thing missing the all-powerful dictator, is internationally recognized.” As for reforms, for which Blair allegedly called in counselors, the “major reform, which is necessary for Kazakhstan’s economy, its output is out of control the president’s family and ensure equitable distribution of income among all segments of society.”

Read below the full text of the appeal.

APPEAL Mukhtar Ablyazov to Tony Blair

Tony Blair was invited to a counselor in the Ak Horde is not to reform, convinced Mukhtar Ablyazov

Tony Blair

PO Box 60 519
W2 7JU 
51, Causton Street

October 28, 2011

Dear Mr Blair!

I was very saddened to learn of your decision to organize a group of advisers to the government of Kazakhstan. I am sure that, as an experienced politician, has worked with authoritarian regimes, you understand the true purpose of these “consulting” projects.

Like others, the infamous dictator, President Nazarbayev is genuinely interested only in maintaining life-long wealth and unlimited power. Through the manipulation of law, electoral fraud and murdering their political opponents, he rules the country for more than 20 years. His son, and is currently the chief contender for the successor Kulibayev directly controls over 80% of Kazakhstan’s economy.

Through the sale of natural resources, family Nazarbayevs accumulated in offshore accounts billions of dollars. The only thing missing the all-powerful dictator, is internationally recognized. Contrary to propaganda and domestic efforts employed by international PR-agency information about corruption, human rights abuses in Kazakhstan, and attacks on independent media is generally known. Despite this, Nazarbayev is a firm believer in the power of money and leaves no attempts at stolen from his own people the means to buy a place in a number of prominent world political leaders.

You should not delude the official name of a consulting project, suggesting the development of economic reforms. The main reform, which requires the Kazakh economy, it is the conclusion of the presidential family’s control and to ensure equitable distribution of income among all segments of society.

In fact, the sole purpose of Nazarbayev in this project is to use your name as a justification for the outrage which he works in Kazakhstan. To see this, you need only look at the flow of comments, which led to Kazakhstan news on your cooperation.

Such projects are wrapped with new miseries for the people of Kazakhstan, as the inevitable tightening of freedom and lawlessness. A striking example is the recent OSCE chairmanship. The country has not only failed to comply with any of the commitments made in the field of democracy, human rights and press freedom, but also imposed new restrictions. In Kazakhstan the OSCE chairmanship is widely promoted as an international recognition of the Nazarbaev regime.

The crimes of the dictator against his own people can not go unpunished, and this year we have already witnessed the requirements change. Chief among them was the long-term strike oil in western Kazakhstan, in which she was arrested union leader Natalia Sokolova and killed in cold blooda 28-year-old union representative Zhaksylyk Turebaev. Mode dropped the mask of law and unleashed violent attacks on strikers and journalists trying to report the news objectively.

In Almaty, on trumped-up charges has been closed office of an independent media company StanTV.Just this week in Aktau had several attacks. Bandits operate on one scenario: shot point blank in the head with rubber bullets and beaten with baseball bats, not sparing even the women, and the police threw up his hands helplessly! Your consulting project can add names to this sad list, as each international recognition of the regime ricochet on the citizens of Kazakhstan. I want you to remember this when working on your project.

Sooner or later the people of Kazakhstan will make their choice, and Nazarbayev with his henchmen will go in the footsteps of other dictators. History will record impartially and names of those who suffered and those who were responsible for this suffering. No persuasion not force dictators to relinquish power.Flirting with dictators in Iraq and Libya eventually cost the Western democracies in the hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of young soldiers. I hope you have learned from these events, and if you fail to persuade President Nazarbayev to a fundamental change in policy, you refuse this ugly role.

Sincerely, Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Kazakhstan hires Tony Blair as star consultant

Kazakhstan hires Blair as star consultant

by Dana Rysmukhamedova
AFP Global Edition

Kazakhstan said on Monday it has hired Britain’s ex-prime minister Tony Blair as a consultant to attract new investment to the Central Asian state, on a contract reportedly worth millions of dollars.

The hire marks a major coup for strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s bid to promote Kazakhstan as an economic powerhouse despite complaints from critics that the country pays little heed to Western democratic standards.

The Daily Telegraph earlier said Blair had signed a one-year contract worth eight million pounds ($12.7 million) with the government of Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan since even before the Soviet collapse.

The foreign ministry refused to confirm the figure but said Blair was one of several foreign officials contracted by the Kazakh state.

“A number of prominent foreign government officials responded to the invitation of the government of Kazakhstan to provide advice on economic policy, on issues of public administration and international politics,” foreign ministry spokesman Altai Abibbulayev told reporters.

“Among them are several former heads of state, including former prime minister Tony Blair,” the spokesman said.

“Getting such politicians involved is already yielding important practical results that improve the attractiveness of Kazakhstan for investors and help adopt modern law for country’s further development.”

Nazarbayev’s top advisor Yermukhamet Yertysbayev said Blair would probably deal with “the question of social-economic modernisation of Kazakhstan.”

“He has extensive ties. He himself worked on modernisation of such a well developed country as the United Kingdom,” Yertysbayev told AFP.

Since leaving office in 2007, Blair became an official special envoy in the Middle East, launched the Blair Faith Foundation, and offered consulting services to foreign governments.

Blair, 58, has been criticised over his role as envoy for the Middle East Quartet, with his detractors alleging that he has been almost invisible and in any case hugely compromised by his role in the Iraq war.

Britain and Kazakhstan enjoy strong relations, and Queen Elizabeth II’s second son Prince Andrew built sometimes controversially close ties to the Kazakh elite during his work as British trade representative.

Nazarbayev first met Blair when the leader of the vast steppe nation visited Britain in 2000. Such was the rapport between the two men that Nazarbayev was reportedly allowed to hold Blair’s baby son Leo, then aged six months.

Yertysbayev declined to be drawn on the size of the contract but confirmed the former British prime minister would not be working for free.

“The amount can be confirmed only by the man who signed the contract. I can confirm that no one consults anyone for free and a person of Blair’s level naturally works for money,” he said.

“Our president has hired consultants before. I don’t see anything sensational in this,” he added.

The Financial Times said Blair’s high-powered team advising the Kazakh government in Astana would also include his former spin doctor Alastair Campbell and former chief of staff Jonathan Powell.

Kazakhstan has been a darling of the foreign investment community, averaging almost 10 percent annual growth over the past decade, but remains an authoritarian regime with effective one-party rule and an all-powerful presidency.

It is keen to promote itself as a modern glitzy nation and forever rid its image of associations to Borat, the fictional politically incorrect Kazakh journalist whose mishaps were the subject of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s hit 2006 mockumentary about the country.

Source: AFP Global Edition

Western Oil Companies Losing-Out On Eastern Caspian Pay-Off

[The undeveloped nature of the Kazakh and Turkmen gas resources and total absence of transportation resources makes these resources much costlier to harvest.  Add to this the recent court set backs and suddenly Kazakhstan loses some of its appeal to Western oil giants.  The  Turkmen govt has decided to keep the large Western companies at bay, in order to retain greater profits from their Caspian resources.  This means that the Western vampires will have to draw-out their vital fluids from the western side of this great deposit and get what it can from Azerbaijan.  This should change the power equation and lessen the overall strategic value of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, but judging from the wave of violence visiting Kazakhstan, it has not.  The level of artificial violence there is an indicator of great importance.  Perhaps this can simply be explained by NDN connections leading there.  Turkmenistan seems to have no such indicators.  The Great Game and its boundaries are being redefined by the governments there, no matter what the West would like.  American interests can only go as far as their wallets can reach.  When the money runs out, the American foothold will fade away.]

Karachaganak deal elusive as Kazakhstan leans further toward Asia


(bne) – As Kazakhstan’s energy policy edges closer to Beijing, eastward pipeline projects have forged ahead while Astana has been slow to resolve long-standing disputes with western oil majors.

By Clare Nuttall (business new europe)

The key question at Kazakhstan’s annual oil and gas conferences in October – Kazenergy and Kioge – concerned the Karachaganak oilfield. Agreement between the Kazakh government and the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating (KPO) consortium is not expected before the end of this year, at the earliest. With for the second phase development of the Kashagan oilfield still undecided, operations across west Kazakhstan are stalling. Exceptions include Sino-Kazakh projects, in particular the expansion of the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline.

Top Kazakhstani government officials have indicated that a resolution of the long-standing dispute over Kazakhstan’s Karachaganak oilfield could be reached by the end of this year. Speaking at the Kazenergy conference in Astana on October 5, the chairman of Kazakhstan’s state holding company Samruk-Kazyna, Timur Kulibayev, said the government would be willing to pay between $700m and $1.1bn for a share in Karachaganak – the most concrete figure yet disclosed.

The following day, at a press conference at the Kioge conference in Almaty, Oil and Gas Minister Sauat Mynbayev was less forthcoming. Mynbayev told journalists there were not yet any specific parameters for a transaction between the government and KPO. He added that Kazakhstan did not plan to write off the consortium’s tax debts in exchange for a stake in the project. There is speculation that the consortium may give the Kazakh government a 5% stake in the project and sell an additional 5% at market value.

Getting greedy

Karachaganak is one of the world’s largest oil and gas fields, with reserves of 1.2bn tonnes of oil and condensate, and over 1.35 trillion cubic meters of gas. A 40-year production sharing agreement was signed in 1997 with BG Group, Eni, Chevron and Lukoil.

The Kazakh government first expressed an interest in taking a stake in the project in 2009. A series of disputes over taxes, export duties and environmental violations have followed. In 2009, the consortium was slapped with a $1.2bn bill for unpaid taxes, as well as hefty environmental fines.

In the early years of independence, Kazakhstan’s new government was keen to attract western oil firms, who contributed both money and technical expertise. More recently, however, the government’s ambitions to take a greater share in the largest oil and gas projects has put Astana at odds with investors.

The first inklings of trouble came with the negotiations over financing for the second phase expansion of the Tengiz oilfield. “This was resolved, but there was a lasting ill effect. It was the start of a solid shift away from the west – or at least a divergence between the strategies of western investors and the Kazakh government,” says Andrew Neff, senior energy analyst at IHS Energy.

The government then put pressure on the consortium developing the Kashagan oilfield. This resulted in state oil and gas company KazMunaiGas taking a stake in 2007. With commercial production now due to start in 2013, there are further concerns over the timing and technical viability of the second phase.

Akiakpar Matishev, executive director of the Kazakhstan Association of Oil-Gas and Energy Sector Organisations (Kazenergy), says there is now a new model for relations between Kazakhstan and foreign investors. “We are trying to lead the situation rather than being led. Kazakhstan is strengthening its presence on Caspian shelf projects in line with the national interest,” he told Kioge delegates. “We also understand that our international partners are looking for a financial payback on their investments, and we need to maintain investment attractiveness.”

Kazakh officials point out that both Kazakhstan and the global oil market have changed substantially in the last two decades, while investors argue that recent actions go against Kazakhstan’s reputation as safe and stable destination. “Recent actions undermine Kazakhstan’s long term commitments to sanctity of contracts,” said Daniel Stein, senior adviser to the special envoy for Eurasian energy at the US State Department. “We understand that sometimes governments need to make changes for economic reasons, but this should be done through good faith negotiations between the partners.”

Asia shift

At the same time, there has been a growing shift towards China in Kazakhstan’s energy policy. In the early independence years, the focus was on the west – Russia, the US and Europe. Now, not only has China made inroads into the oil and gas sector, investment from India, Japan and Korea is also growing.

“There was tangible progress with the Kazakhstan-China pipeline while relations with Russia and western investors stalled,” says Neff. He points out that western companies were debating over Karachaganak and Kashagan, China speedily built a 3,000-kilometre long pipeline across Central Asia in just two and a half years.

“In the early years, Kazakhstan performed a geo-political balancing act with the US, Russia and the EU, while Asian companies were relatively absent. Over time, there has been a shift in power towards Asia, in particular China,” Neff added. “Kazakhstan is no longer trying to balance geo-political interests, it is pursuing its own interests, which happen to align more with China’s than with Russia or the West.”

Experts: Riots in Kazakhstan triggered externally

Experts: Riots in Kazakhstan triggered externally

LONDON, Dec. 17. Riots in the town Zhanaozen Mangistau region during Independence Day celebrations, instigated from the outside in order to undermine stability in the country, according to interviewed on Friday “Rosbalt” experts.


According to the Director of MSU IAC. Alexei Vlasov University, the conflict in Mangistau region smoldered a long time, and there were no signs of his passage to the drastic forms of protest, especially confrontation with death. “Obviously, the situation using the power opponents who try to manipulate the mood of protest from London. On the eve of a social networking appeals appeared to disrupt the celebration of Independence Day, celebrated on December 16.” “For these are attempts to discredit the government may have deliberately shed blood” – points to the expert.


This view is shared by the director of international projects of the Institute of National Strategy Yuri Solozobov. “I think the excitement provoked by external radical opponents of President Nazarbayev, – he said. – The fact that this was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of independence of Kazakhstan, is very revealing. The purpose of this obvious provocation – if not to destabilize the situation in the country generally, the at least to question the stability of Kazakhstan. ”


Judge recalls that on the eve of public holidays in different cities of Kazakhstan has passed a series of terrorist acts, and “they were openly ostentatious, emphasized brutal. The aim was one – to sow panic in front of Independence anniversary.” “What happened today, also shows the reasonableness of the action. The commercials have been laid out on the network, it is seen as an organized group of young men came with already pre-configured with clubs, and begins to smash the scene to provoke the police,” – said Solozobov.


Director of the Institute of Regional Problems, Dmitry Zhuravlev believes that “the oil companies were Zhanaozen bargaining chip in the hands of opponents of the authorities, hiding abroad, a tool for loosening of stability.” In his opinion, the methods of thugs are typical for any elaborate provocation, oriented to the external Press support. ”


Recall the last Friday in Zhanaozen Mangistau region during the celebrations of the Independence Day of Kazakhstan, a riot took place, during which the burned building of the city akimat (city administration), hotels, cars, looted cash machines.


All the experts point out that, according to available information, the police conducted themselves as well. “I have not heard allegations that police used force and arms, were acts which are designed correctly to push the attackers,” – said Hillary.


“The reaction of the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor General and other law enforcement agencies were very prompt and open to the media. It is true that law enforcement agencies of Kazakhstan have learned to react to such events,” – says Zhuravlev. “The authorities have reacted exactly the way and should be” – sure Solozobov.


According to Vlasov, to localize the conflict must now be present at the scene of the country’s top leaders and security forces. “We need to make a thorough examination and identify those responsible for the deaths of people. Then you need to resolve the protracted conflict in the Mangistau region to cut the ground from those who exploited the situation for personal political purposes. The authorities need to understand and do not hesitate to call customers, including not conceal the names of those who finance the conflict from abroad, “- said the expert.


According to experts, we can talk about trying to implement the scenario in Kazakhstan “color revolution” or “Arab spring”, now the organizers will try to blow up the scandal in the foreign media, but the majority of the population would not support the destructive forces.


“Many Western experts have openly discussed the script department oilfield in Western Kazakhstan and the establishment of a puppet government there. Another thing that really separatism in Kazakhstan. Polls show that 95% of the population supports the policy Nazarbayev to integration with Russia and Belarus. And it’s not to like certain forces who wish to obtain lucrative contracts. So they resort to such desperate methods “- sure Solozobov.


“By allowing itself to be used, rioters set themselves not only illegal, but, judging by the responses and comments to the news and commercials from the field, outside of society. Most of the commentators of Kazakhstan is sharply negative attitude to the actions of thugs,” – said Vlasov. “About any sympathy for those who arranged it all, in Kazakhstan society can not speak” – agrees Zhuravlev.

Anatomy of a political provocation in Kazakhstan

Anatomy of a political provocation

Zhanaozen: the creation myth
Alex Bantsikin 
Some of the great said: “Be creative about his myth – the gods started that way!” Some of our opposition to follow this dictum, as the guide to action. The protest in sufficient detail Zhanaozen and regularly covered sites of so-called “Socialist Resistance of Kazakhstan” (whose office is somehow located in Kyrgyzstan). Style of presenting information to the pain resembles Soviet correspondents reporting from Northern Ireland or Honduras. The same vocabulary – “oppressed”, “workers”, “in unison.” And most importantly, all signs of the Soviet myth: on the one hand the legendary heroism of “rebels”, they almost ancient power, on the other – perfidy and baseness “oppression-capitalists.”

Soviet propagandists and their successors to Kazakh traditions have in common one – biased opinions and methods of treating the public consciousness. All traditional, Soviet-style. Any Irish terrorist bomb blew up a school bus in Belfast, immediately declared a patriot and a “victim of police brutality.” But the Afghan student of Kabul University, who tried to do the same, immediately became a “right-wing Islamic radicals.”

Something similar is happening today. Absenteeism is treated as an expression of discontent of the workers. Trying to impose a limited group of opinion to all the staff – billed as a protest. Although in reality, the only change is an assessment for the event – from minus to plus.

The formula of the conflict

Recall that in early March, a group of thirty-two contractors working Production Branch “Ozenmunaygaz” (structural unit of JSC “Exploration and Production,” KMG “), blocked the movement of service buses, carrying oil to the oil fields. Paralyzing transport links, the drivers were shouting calls for a strike. Their discontent caused handed out before the painting under notice of upcoming changes in the wage system. Moreover, the amendment itself, for anyone not news: two consecutive years, the company’s management led to the union unending dialogue, trying to come to a common denominator. As a result, the union won wage increases guaranteed by almost a third – from 55 to 77 percent. Until that time, the constant part was minuscule compared to the bonuses for exceeding production plan. In terms of reserves and the fall-out depending on the plan, it’s not bad. And then, when it failed, broke new scandal.

The company has in the past there were conflicts. The source of their workers were service businesses – drivers, electricians, locksmiths, cooks. Not taking part directly in the process of extracting oil, they nevertheless believe that the system of payment of premium for the plan of production should be extended not only to drillers. Sharikovskoe understanding of justice – the principle of “all share”, – compounded, so to speak, the natural inequality.All the same, anyway, and the salary of a qualified master or masters of drilling for underground repair of wells, where the driver’s salary Pobol lacking at times not only special but also complete secondary education. Most of them – migrants from the neighboring republics of the economically disadvantaged.

There is another category of Protestants. This former executives of bankrupt enterprises service, bought for the debts of the company JSC “Exploration and Production” KazMunayGas “. The subsequent restructuring, caused their demotion and, therefore, wages. Changed its status and the need to obey the leaders of Astana, they perceived as an infringement of their natural rights. Two groups of “depressed” found each other. Human ambition of the former local commanders and financial aspirations of migrants who arrived in the oil region “for the big money” has become a point of contact. Experience the service of some intrigue, greed, and multiplied by the claims of others – these are the two important elements of an explosive conflict-mixture.

Detonators and catalysts

Now let’s talk about what supports this critical mass of popular discontent in a state of alert. First, the overt neglect Zhanaozen. Guide field, carried away by other, more global problems, the problems of the city left without attention. All the energy of Governor Mangistau Krymbek Kusherbayev spent on lobbying project on the development of tourist infrastructure on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The project “Kazakhstan in Dubai,” so firmly seized the minds of local officials that everything else has long faded into the background. What to say when near akimat even planted palm trees in the Arab … tubs! Rumor has it that each tree cost the local budget of 10 thousand dollars.

Meanwhile, the socio-economic situation of homeless Zhanaozen worse every day. The city’s population, calculated according to the Master Plan for 60 thousand people rose to 116 thousand. Increase provided the settlers, whole families gather to smell the petrodollars. Depreciation of municipal engineering facilities (power, heat, water) was one hundred percent. Regional reacted paradoxically: It was agreed an unprecedented decision to limit the expansion of the city. Deny could not settle, but they were forbidden to build. The result? No! The number of residents has not declined, social tensions rose. In addition, the redundancy of labor still does not correspond to a limited number of jobs in the “Ozenmunaygaz.” Everybody wants to earn money, “as oil,” but whether or not a “oil industry” to accept all comers? Zhanaozen firmly stuck with oil fields. So much so, that he offered to townspeople that work now, he just burst out laughing in the face. And there is none, other spheres of activity! Over the last ten years of akimat there was not a single proposal to create entries of any new urban enterprise. Even the clothing factory, and that rests exclusively on the orders of “KMG EP” or poshivayuschey here overalls, which runs the entire city.

Chapter Mangistau region shifted frankly cares about the welfare of the city on the shoulders of management of JSC “Exploration and Production” KazMunayGas “. Each year, make selections from a half to two billion tenge to solve problems Zhanaozen, but the money sunk into the general budget expenditures. To find out what exactly they had been exhausted, no longer possible. (Incidentally, this year again forced oil companies to sign a memorandum stating that “Ozenmunaygaz” will provide the infrastructure of 970 million tenge.). Local government is actually a parasite on the oil companies, allocating to the management of “upstream” to perform his functions to provide a favorable social and economic climate. Oilers build everything here – from shift to the campuses of health posts, schools and hospitals. And yet, this little, little, little …

On the “samovar” and the trumpet-nurse

Talking about the elements of conflict, we can not overlook another circumstance. The city is surrounded by a dense ring of thin oil refineries – “samovar.” When issuing a permit for construction of a mini-refinery, city administration has not bothered to even the field of the main question: how processors will take the raw materials? Meanwhile, PF “Ozenmunaygaz” of their “extra” oil is not. All resources are mined here in the common fund companies’ exploration and production of “KazMunayGas”, is pumped into the pipeline, on which are exported to Europe and China.

At the same time and mini-refinery shortage of raw materials do not. The secret of their business is simple: oil on these plants come … stolen! In Zhanaozen have long formed the team of “black oil”, each with its own specialization. Some are preparing “caches” – undermining the pipe sections of the pipeline to which the bottom is welded pipe-invisible removal. Then the “caches” are sold for the subsequent operation of the buyer. The task of the new owner of the “enterprise” – pour oil into a tanker, to take away and sell it to agents of owners of mini-refineries.

Do away with the petrol mafia is easy. But the opportunities for private security of pipelines is limited. Virtually unarmed security guard, and has no right even to prosecute drivers of tank vehicles. The police also turn a blind eye to the transgressions of owners of mini-refineries that use the patronage of local government. Allegations of theft of oil, as a rule, are not considered, or revert back to an exhaustive statement of the “responsibility for the safety of their property is the owner.”

However, several police raids led to a stunning discovery. It turned out that among the manufacturers of “caches” and “transporters” of stolen oil … oil-producing enterprise employees themselves! More precisely, the employees of their service departments. Yes, the same drivers and fitters, who consider themselves unjustly deprived. This can be considered a coincidence, but I have noticed that in labor disputes “Ozenmunaygaz” always flare up amid rumors of impending police raids on the “black oil”. It is known that finpol Mangistau region planned inspection of the mini-refinery in early March. But at this time in protest Zhanaozen broke. Coincidence?

Technology scandal

We note how a small group of Protestants in a short time excited the public, and forced to see a serious political opponent. The first thing that was done: a group of initiators of the action attracted the attention of the potentially active citizens. This was not difficult to achieve, since the protest potential of the city, forgotten by local authorities, and so splashed out on any occasion. Stopping the service hours for buses has become a kind of Hyde Park, where everyone had the opportunity to pour out his heart in curses and slogans.

On this occasion, the initiative group here on the Square, held an impromptu meeting of trade union, and re-elected chairman of the trade-union … “Ozenmunaygaz!” Of course, this decision was illegitimate. First, because the collection was carried out without compliance with procedural requirements, it was not formalized by the corresponding protocol. Second, members of the union pension fund “Ozenmunaygaz” were presented to the workers of the two service companies – JSC “Cruz” and LLC “Zhondeu.” Third, consider whether it is worth booth on the square “union meetings” if the ballot was attended by people from the street? Can decide the fate of their professional community can be trusted with the oil of housewives, pensioners and the unemployed? But the deed was done, and thus, 30 initiators of the protest annulled all the previous work of thousands of trade-union and employer agreed a new pay system. All agreements, to this day meet most of the workers were “democratic” way broken the opposition minority. The Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (TUFRK) tried to warn against this demonstration, but they were quickly deprived of speech.

The core of the initiative group was already formed, and got some semblance of organization. The case remained for small – to articulate what they want. It did not happen. Encouraged by the support of the crowd, the initiators of the strike immediately crossed the line separating unionists from public politics. Instead of specific proposals, sounded abstract calls and threats to the government and employers. Strikers shook from one extreme to another. First, they demanded a plan to reduce oil production, but to increase premiums. Then he agreed to the isolation of “Ozenmunaygaz” from the national company, and creation on its base “of the local businesses with local leaders.” Then he demanded to remove the mayor Zhanaozen … In general, everything that happens reminded anecdote – “The terrorists seized the distillery and now the third day could not formulate the requirements.” Only when management “Ozenmunaygaz” filed a claim for recognition of the strike illegal, the instigators of the action became sober and relate their appeals to common sense. Alas, the initiative was lost. The Court denied the strikers to accept their demands as legitimate. However, the same judge issued a partial definition to the leadership “Ozenmunaygaz” pointing “to the lack of outreach.” It is this document has become a trump card in future political bid.

Position of power or lack thereof?

And then followed a series of unexpected concessions from the management of JSC NC “KazMunayGas”. Arrived on the scene, the president of the national company Kairgeldy Kabyldin not only sat on strikers at the negotiating table, but agreed by almost all their requirements. A little later, with the Governor of Mangistau region signed a memorandum of allocation of 900 million tenge to “support the social infrastructure Zhanaozen.”

From the side it seemed that this “work made justice.” That’s right, choking euphoria commented on the outcome of negotiations, the “Socialist Resistance”. But very soon the mayor of Krymbek Kusherbayev actually disavowed the intention behind the scenes action script “working” of protest.Relying on the private court ruling, he said that “lack of effective asset management” Ozenmunaygaz “and almost agreed with the idea of ​​changing its ownership. It is clear that the mayor is interested in this much more work, for which the independent status of the company, in fact, nothing will change. But for the mayor … is enough to look through the Tax Code, to understand the appeal of this idea for the guide field. Derivation of oil production “Ozenmunaygaz” of the consolidated structure of the national company, means an increase in taxes to the local budget. With this financial support you can forget about the need to attract investors into the real economy of the region, and just deal with only the redistribution of oil revenues.

The views of Governor in this regard are not far from the way of thinking zhanaozenskogo migrants who cherish dreams of the “Dubai of life”, where nobody works, but only gets the royalties from oil exports. Note also that independence “Ozenmunaygaza” beneficial owners and the mini-refinery, supporting Mayor. In this case, they will get legal access to the coveted oil. It is easy to understand why the regional city administration and the police deliberately did not intervene in the conflict. By declaring a strike, “an internal affair of the company,” they patiently watched, whose side will take up. And for all the possible accusations of inaction, they had harvested an indulgence – a private decision of the court to the leadership “Ozenmunaygaz.”

When hungry myth

The Myth of zhanaozenskom protest began living separate lives, and everyone hurried to get more out of their propaganda advantage. Victims fiasco representatives of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (TUFRK) in order to keep a good face on a bad declared it an example of the working class-consciousness. That is, they say, there was a danger unmanaged conflict, but the workers have chosen their representatives, and entered into negotiations. Keep it up guys! The fact that the deputation from the area had no right to represent anyone, “pro” prefer not to mention.

“Socialist Resistance Kazakhstan” focused public attention on the mass action. Armed with his method of counting, representatives of the movement said they gathered in the square “about ten thousand people.” But what does that prove? Any owner of a supermarket will tell you that at the time of sale he is going to the people no less. Apparently aware of this, “sotssoprotivlentsy” tried to bolster the argument of critical mass, examples of participation in the action of ordinary citizens. Thus, by the way, had another myth about a “pensioner Popova,” a hunger strike to show solidarity with the workers Zhanaozen. What happened to her then, no one knows. All attempts to find its journalists were unsuccessful. And here the locksmith, allegedly died during a hunger strike in Zhanaozen know all too well. Only relatives working here were not fond of them struck the attention of journalists. The reason of their coldness became clear after it emerged: daring, “the victim of arbitrary capitalists” suffered death by poisoning of low-quality alcohol product.

Rhythm of revolutionary phrases can obscure the truth. Too strongly vary the traditional way of the proletariat, not having “nothing but their chains,” with a real portrait of modern zhanaozentsa. Unwittingly, the strikers have attracted national attention to the level of their earnings. It turned out that the average wage worker “Ozenmunaygaz” order of magnitude higher wages of skilled professionals in other industries and regions. Moreover, it became known that a small town in the desert is the undisputed leader of Kazakhstan, both in terms of consumer credit per capita, and the number of cars purchased on credit. The reaction of ordinary Kazakhs is quite predictable: “With the fat rage!”. But the strikers do not think so. Here’s what spokesman told the strikers Iklas Shangereev of an opposition newspaper:

– To get a decent wage, to plow the heart. But life – it’s not only worked for eight o’clock, come home, and tomorrow morning back to work. We need to raise children, teach, marry, have to correct health, preferably every summer vacation. That this is not enough, although it should be … In addition, all loans now, you know …

Live in a market society and resent the fact that “we must plow from the heart” – is at least curious! However, the new “socialist” these oddities do not interfere with the growth of a declaration of the class consciousness of the working of Kazakhstan. The well-known activist Aibek Kurmanov even wrote an essay on this subject, entitled “Growth of the protest and the labor movement in Kazakhstan,” a stroke of the pen identifying the word “protest” and “working.” Report was presented to Moscow this public, but serious reactions are not caused – what do Zhanaozen Moscow before?

Unraveling the myth! Mythmaker not even mention helped Zhanaozenskih events of 1989, which, obviously, was to bear witness to the historical tradition of protest. Materials based on archival documents the Russian Interior Ministry were too stingy. Maybe that’s why they “reinforced” the evidence of the convicted for terrorism Rahat Aliyev. It is true that he “witness” at that time in New Uzen was not, and mainly operates rumors. More objective information to journalists could provide the current opposition leader Zharmakhan Tuyakbai. That he, as Attorney-Guriev region (in 1989 it temporarily merged with the Mangyshlak), performed by the public prosecutor at the trial zhanaozentsev convicted of massacres of Chechens, Dagestani and Ingush, and inciting ethnic hatred. Prosecutor brilliantly executed the order of Moscow, found in Kazakhstan and any excuse for a mass anti-corruption measures in an “Uzbek affair ‘…

“And perched above the earth …”

But worst of all else. Connivance of the authorities, and the haste of the employer, desperately trying to localize the conflict and to prevent possible damage from falling oil production, led to a serious shift in the consciousness of the workers. They appeared illusion that all manufacturing problems can be easily resolved in its favor blackmail – threatening to strike. The result was immediate. At the enterprise level has plummeted production discipline, cases of sick leave and absenteeism change without good reason, registered unprecedented in the “oil industry” facts drinking alcohol in the workplace. Line managers throw up their hands in helplessness – the workers do not obey the instructions of managers. Consider whether it is also testimony to the “growth of the working class-consciousness”?

“Workers Zhanaozen conscious of themselves as a political force” – say in the opposition press. This is a happy? Look at neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where the people have the habit to solve social and economic problems of the country by the “Tulip Revolution”. What won the fraternal republic, showing the world the true face of “democracy”? The wave of violence that struck Bishkek, looting, robbery, arson and pogroms of private apartments for a long time discouraged investors from the Kyrgyz economy. Apparently, the new “socialist” mythmaker crave repetition Kyrgyz scenario in Kazakhstan. Does not this goal so inflated myth of Zhanaozenskoy strike?
The author once again stresses that all the above is the personal opinion of the journalist, are familiar with the situation in Zhanaozen.



Kazakhstan simmers as striking oil workers sacked

[These are the oil field workers who were brutally assaulted by Kazakh police in Zhanaozen.  Somewhere between 900-1400 workers were fired to break an ongoing strike which apparently began in support of one fired worker who was fired for alleged drug possession/use.  Closer inspection reveals that the workers may have been really let go as a cost-cutting measure, covered-up by the excuse of the strike.  Watching the film of the original rioting shows provocateurs wrecking the stage and sound system that had been set-up for Independence Day festivities.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

One report that escaped from the press black-out claimed that they were moving on a secret signal sent from the expatriate head of the only opposition party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) in London, but this is pure speculation.  Whatever the cause, if the rioting and government repression escalate into a threat to the Kazakh govt, will Russian reinforcements be called in under the recent Center-2011 scenario?  This was the objective of the war games, is it time to see it played-out?  It seems as though the “Stans” countries are in a race to register the first “Arab Spring” scenario in Central Asia and that Kazakhstan is in the lead.  Will it be the first country in the region to be racked by civil eruptions, and, if so, will the solution be a brutal put-down in the Bahrain/Syria model?]  

Kazakhstan simmers as striking oil workers sacked


(bne) – Angry protestors gather every day in the main square in the Kazakh town of Zhanaozen in a rare display of popular dissent. Many of them used to work at Uzen, one of Kazakhstan’s largest oilfields, but were fired in August in an attempt to stop a four-month strike at the facility.


By Clare Nuttall (business new europe)

Labor disputes are not uncommon in this oil-rich Central Asian republic, but this one has got both political and ugly. Efforts to silence the strikers has led to journalists being blocked from reporting the story, Sting canceling a concert in Astana, and the daughter of one of the strike leaders and a young trade union member were killed by unidentified assailants. While it’s unlikely any of these incidents on their own could spark another so-called “colored revolution” in Kazakhstan, the protest is symptomatic of an emerging middle class starting to flex its political muscles.

KazMunaiGas Exploration Production (KMG EP) announced on August 26 that it had sacked around 900 striking workers, and that production at Uzen had stabilized. Most of the workers have now been replaced with new recruits from Zhanaozen and nearby settlements. Karazhanbasmunai, a joint venture between KMG EP and China’s Citic, also sacked around 500 workers. Most of the 120,000 people in Zhanaozen are directly or indirectly dependent on the Uzen field for their livelihoods, so tempers in the remote desert town are running high. What started as a dispute over pay quickly became politicized, with a mixture of clan rivalries and the personal ambitions of regional politicians. Further, KMG EP’s London-listing has also given the dispute an international dimension, as international shareholders wonder how the strike will affect production and are watching the events closely – far more closely than if the fracas had involved a purely domestically owned company.

Fear of contagion

Oil and gas are the backbone of Kazakhstan’s economy, and account for the lion’s share of the country’s exports, so the production losses at Uzen are bad news for the government. KMG EP, which is 58% owned by the state-owned oil and gas firm KazMunaiGas, said it had experienced production losses of around 600,000 tonnes of oil, while Karazhanbasmunai’s losses amounted to 17,578 tonnes between May 17 and July 31. So far, the disruptions aren’t impacting too hard on the bottom line. On September 5, KMG EP said its first-half net profits rose by 14% year on year to KZT114 billion ($783 million) as high oil prices offset production losses “due to the illegal strike, increase in operating taxes, production costs and selling, general and administrative expenses,” it said.

A bigger fear than the industry’s losses within ruling circles, however, is that the strike could spark wider anti-government action.

While relatively small run-ins have led to revolutions in places like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, experts don’t believe social tensions are high enough in Kazakhstan to spark a major popular uprising. Even so, it’s certain the leadership is watching the events closely.

Large-scale political action is still rare in Kazakhstan, and at the few demonstrations that have been allowed to take place in recent years protesters are sometimes outnumbered by police. Reasons for the lack of political activism in Kazakhstan include government actions to stifle media freedom and political debate, and a fear of civil unrest. But behind this has been the government’s success at improving the general standard of living – especially in comparison to the other ‘Stans – which has tempered politics and subdued the people who are largely happy with their leaders. Economically, Kazakhstan has drawn far ahead of its Central Asian neighbors, and at the same time the Kazakh government has cleverly played on the population’s fear of political instability.

This has helped to ensure that President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s 20-year rule has continued uninterrupted. The 2011 presidential election, when Nazarbayev was re-elected with an unbelievable 95.5% of the vote in a poll that international observers including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said was rigged and fraudulent, failed to result in any popular protest.

Still, the strike is significant, as it highlights the awakening of the country’s growing middle class, whose lives have improved to the point where they are demanding their share of the country’s wealth – as has been apparent in other countries in Emerging Europe. With Kazakhstan’s average per-capita income approaching the middle-income bracket, this may happen more often, as governments across North Africa found to their cost this year.

So far, some wealth is trickling down from Kazakhstan’s fabulously wealthy oligarchy to the middle classes, but the process is slow. Salaries for an operator at the Uzen field average KZT240,000-290,000 a month ($1,600-$2,000), according to KMG EP, which is above the Kazakhstan average. However, conditions at the field, where temperatures soar to to 60° Celsius in summer, are tough, and the costs of living in Zhanaozen are high due to its isolated location. Workers have been angered by attempts to adjust their pay, and this was exacerbated by the disparity between pay for local workers and expatriates, especially Chinese workers.

The authorities have cracked down hard on the strikers. On August 8, Natalia Sokolova, the lawyer representing the striking oil workers, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of inciting social discord, which has outraged human rights groups. “It is clear that the kind of things Sokolova was accused of doing are no grounds for criminal charges. It is 100% clear that she was simply doing her job,” Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division, tells bne.

Local and international NGOs are supporting the preparations for Sokolova’s appeal against the sentence, which is likely to take place in mid-September, and are prepared to take the case to Kazakhstan’s High Court if necessary.

Kazakh journalists also say they have been pressured into staying away from the oilfield. “Only a small group of journalists from the opposition media has been covering the situation at Uzen,” says Viacheslav Abramov, deputy director of Freedom House in Kazakhstan. “It’s really tough for journalists, as they have come under a lot of pressure, and are not able to get a clear and objective picture of the situation in Mangistau.”

As a result, the strikes and civil unrest in Mangistau have been relatively under-reported within Kazakhstan. Fears that the unrest could gain momentum and spread across the country haven’t been realized, but there have been some small demonstrations outside the Almaty offices of the ruling Nur Otan party.

In a more sinister development, there have been several violent attacks on the strikers and people connected to them. On August 24, Zhansaule Karabalayeva, the 18-year-old daughter of one of the strike leaders, was found dead with multiple injuries in the countryside outside Zhanaozen. The cause of her death has not yet been determined. On August 2, Zhaksylyk Turbaev, a trade union member working for an oilfield service company in Zhanaozen, was also killed. The previous day, two members of the opposition Popular Front movement said they were attacked in Aktau; both received head injuries, RFE/RL reported.

This has become sufficiently serious to attract international attention. Not only did Sting pull out of a gig due to be held in July, but now a string of international politicians are weighing in to condemn the heavy-handed tactics being employed. Irish Socialist MEP Paul Murphy tells bne that he plans to bring up the issue at the next sitting of the European parliament. “I visited Kazakhstan this summer and talked with many of the strikers and workers. I understand the intimidation is severe,” he said. “I promised to raise the issue in the parliament.”

Swedish trade unions have raised around €15,000 for the workers at KMG EP and its JV partner Karazhanbasmunai; trade unions from Ireland, the UK and other European countries are also showing their support. Protests are planned at Esso petrol stations (the Esso brand is owned by ExxonMobil, one of the partners of KMG EP’s parent firm, KazMunaiGas, in the Tengizchevroil joint venture) across the UK later in September.

The decision by the Kazakh authorities and KMG EP to go on the attack – sacking hundreds of workers and attempting to stifle the protests – rather than persevering with early efforts to find a compromise, could have longer-term consequences, warn analysts.

Kazakhstan remains a low-income country, but will join the ranks of middle-income countries soon; Nazarbayev’s stated aim is to raise average per-capita income to $15,000 by 2016. While the current protest shows little sign of achieving revolutionary momentum, memories of the state’s refusal to listen will remain and resentment will fester. In a few years time, the final outcome could be very different.

Children of the Taliban

Children of the Taliban

ACCORDING to a recent report, the Afghan Taliban have reached an agreement with the Karzai government that will end their attacks on schools and teachers.

In return, the education department will have the curriculum vetted and approved by the extremist group that will also have a say in the selection of teachers.

The Pakistani Taliban have a much simpler education policy: they just blow up school buildings, paying especial attention to girls’ schools and colleges. To further discourage parents from trying to educate their kids, these zealots kill and kidnap them at every opportunity.

These are the people we are supposed to negotiate with, according to large sections of our political class and right-wing media.

But whenever reports of talks between the Taliban and the government do the rounds, they are firmly repudiated by the
terrorists who repeat their mantra of no talks until their interpretation of Sharia law is imposed across the whole country.

So basically, they are demanding that we surrender before any negotiations can take place. According to their calculus, by constantly slaughtering unarmed civilians and attacking state institutions, they will weaken the will of the government as well as the population to resist.

Thus far, their estimation of the establishment’s stomach for the struggle has not been far wrong: witness the abject position our politicians and administration took when they handed over Swat to the terrorist group headed by Maulana Fazlullah. Had not these criminals overreached, they might still have been terrorising Swat.

The reason for the Taliban’s rejection of all modern education is that they want to drag us down to their level of ignorance.

The violent Nigerian group Boku Haram stands for a similar degree of backwardness. They shroud their demands for a retreat to the distant past by claiming that they want to restore the golden era of early Islam. But the real reason is that these holy warriors have been brainwashed into believing that everything modern and scientific is ‘un-Islamic’. In reality, they feel bypassed and inadequate in the globalised world of the 21st century.

We must never lose sight of the fact that religion has nothing to do with the ongoing struggle: the fight is, and always has been, about power. It is also true that most Muslim countries have failed to put forward a consistent counter-narrative by their generally shambolic performance. This absence of good governance has given the extremists greater appeal than they deserve.

Having said this, let us not forget what a disaster the Taliban were when they were in power in Afghanistan. They not only isolated their country by their stone-age approach to government, they gave religion a bad name by their brutal treatment of women and the non-Pashtun minorities.

In Pakistan, we have the example of the alliance of the Islamic parties who governed the then NWFP province under Musharraf’s regime, having come to power with his help. Widely seen as corrupt and ineffective, they opened the doors to further extremism.

More than anything else, we should deplore the Taliban’s benighted attitude towards education. By banning girls from going to school, and imposing their barbaric worldview on learning, they wish to consign future generations to the same ignorance they revel in. Politicians like Imran Khan should ask themselves if they would like their children to grow up and be educated under a Taliban dispensation.

Despite their ignorance, they understand that to exercise total control over a subject population, you have to control what the younger generation absorb. In the mediaeval era, the Church recognised this truth and staffed schools with priests. Only the arrival of the Enlightenment wrested control of learning from the papacy.

Among so much else, children educated in madressahs are denied any knowledge about the wonders of the universe. Who, for instance, will teach them about the implications of the possible discovery of the Higgs boson, recently announced by the director of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern?

To convey the excitement the increasing probability of a breakthrough has generated in the scientific community, here is Lawrence M Krauss, cosmologist at the Arizona State University, quoted in the New York Times:

“If the Higgs is discovered, it will represent perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of the human intellect in recent memory, vindicating 50 years of the building of one of the greatest theoretical edifices in all of science, and requiring the building of the most complicated machine that has ever been built.”

One of those who contributed significantly to the building of this ‘theoretical edifice’ was Prof Abdus Salam, the Pakistani physicist who was honoured for his work with a Nobel Prize. In Pakistan, he was largely ignored by a reactionary
establishment that was rabidly hostile towards his Ahmadi belief.

How could one discuss the discovery of the Earth-like planet 600 light-years away with a graduate of a madressah?

Kepler-22b is the most likely candidate for a world that might sustain life found so far. This has been a fruitful year for scientists searching the skies for extra-terrestrial planets, and over 1,000 have now been identified.

But for me, the most exciting scientific possibility of the year has been the report that certain particles might have travelled faster than light. The controversial experiment has been repeated with similar results, and should it be confirmed, it will have enormous implications for the tested theory of relativity and our view of how the universe is constructed.

One of the fundamentals of the theory postulates that nothing can travel faster than light. And thus far, all research and experience seemed to confirm this law of physics. But researchers who reported their findings recently might force a re-valuation of what has been taken as gospel for decades.

One possible explanation for this aberration is that these neutrinos might have jumped into another dimension through which the path to the point of observation is shorter giving the illusion of supra-light travel.

Sadly, all these wonders will be denied to children brought up and educated under the Taliban and their ilk. Those who want us to share power with them need to think again.

The writer is the author of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West.


Dictatorships of Central Asia

Make a new plan, Stans

The biggest instability facing the region’s dictators is the lack of any mechanism to succeed them

The Economist


FAR from being at the heart of a happening continent, for much of modern times Central Asia stagnated on the periphery. Now, 20 years after breaking from the Soviet Union, things are changing for the “Stans”. For one thing, huge and growing quantities of oil and gas are being uncovered. Seven-tenths of all the increase in oil output outside OPEC is coming from Central Asia. Led by Kazakhstan, an energy boom is under way.

Partly because of that, pipelines, roads and railways are reshaping the continent. A pipeline opened in 2009 that runs for 7,000km (4,400 miles) from gasfields in Turkmenistan to energy-hungry China. Railway plans are ambitious. China’s schemes would mean that by 2025 a Shanghai resident could reach his tailor in London’s Savile Row by train in two days.

The “central” is being put back into Central Asia. East-west links are forming between Europe and East Asia which may one day knit the Eurasian land mass together. Some, notably America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, talk of the north-south possibilities too. America will need a new regional policy once it pulls its troops out of Afghanistan, and Mrs Clinton’s “New Silk Road” conjures visions of Turkmenistan piping gas to India and the markets of Astana groaning with Afghan fruit.

It is an attractive prospect, but not, at present, a realistic one. It would be crazy to put a pipeline through unstable Afghanistan. Nor has the Silk Road ever flourished without Iran’s participation, something America is hardly likely to promote. As far as Central Asian rulers see it, Afghanistan’s chief exports are militant Islam and drugs.

A greater danger still lies in Central Asia’s domestic politics, in which change has been regrettably absent. With the exception of democratic Kyrgyzstan, where recent bloodshed hardly inspires confidence, Central Asia is run by ex-Soviet strongmen. Islam Karimov and Nursultan Nazarbayev have ruled Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan respectively since 1989, and Emomali Rakhmon has run Tajikistan since 1992. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is a spring chicken, ruling Turkmenistan only since 2006. But he takes after his late predecessor, who had a gold statue of himself revolve to face the sun.

All these men, who dislike each other, have rigged elections, muzzled the media and gone after opponents. The most populous country, Uzbekistan, is perhaps the most repressive. Torture is widespread. In 2005 in Andijan, Uzbek soldiers fired on protesters, killing hundreds if not thousands of them. For a mix of secrecy and repression, however, Turkmenistan takes the biscuit. In July a lethal and suspicious explosion at an ammunition dump outside the capital, Ashgabat, was not reported within the country.

The secular strongmen fear social instability and militant Islam. But conflating ordinary piety with extremism risks bringing into existence the very thing they fear. Meanwhile, nepotism flourishes, stifling growth and creating inequalities. Political energies are chiefly spent securing the interests of immensely wealthy ruling families and a narrow group of oligarchs around them—none wealthier than Kazakhstan’s (see article). Even as they solicit foreign investment, the elites put their own money and mistresses in London or Zurich. Further down the governing apparatus, Soviet habits die hard. One Western adviser calls Kazakhstan’s tax and customs “officially sanctioned rackets”, while the judiciary is up for sale. And Kazakhstan is Central Asia’s most fragrant economy.

Stop fawning

Central Asia, thus, is not as stable as it seems. It might not take much—a powerful earthquake ineptly handled, growing protests by the dispossessed or, especially, a bungled succession—for the brittleness of these nasty, brutish and long regimes to show. Russia and China, competing for energy supplies, will not point this out to autocrats. But European governments should stop letting Central Asian dictators off the hook.

They could start in Kazakhstan, by far the most open place. Mr Nazarbayev spends fortunes on having Western public-relations firms, lobbyists and a former British prime minister, Tony Blair, burnish his image. Britain’s Prince Andrew has been far too friendly with Central Asian dictators as well. Europeans would do better by pointing out that Mr Nazarbayev’s image would shine brighter if he paved the way for a more plural politics—and for a successor who is not one of his family or from his circle of cronies. They should do this before stability suddenly turns to brittleness.

Arab Islamists Are Here to Stay

Arab Islamists Are Here to Stay

Foreign Policy In Focus

A project of the Institute for Policy Studies

A think tank without walls

By Adil E. Shamoo

Description: Description: ennahda-supporters-islamists-elections-tunisia-morocco-egypt-libya

The hysteria of the West about the Arab awakening turning into an Arab Islamist nightmare is reaching full-blown proportions. The United States and Israel, self-appointed referees of democracy in the region despite their long-running support for the Middle East’s most corrupt and authoritarian regimes, are crying foul.

The incitement? A series of victories by Islamist parties in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt. Yet, given the history of Western support for governments that simultaneously quashed secular opposition movements and persecuted Islamists, the popularity of moderate Islamist parties should come as little surprise—nor should it be cause for concern.

Oil and Stability

For over 60 years, the West sold out Arab freedom and democracy for oil and stability. Fearing the growing strength of Arab communist parties in the 1950s, the West assisted in founding and supporting the anti-communist Baathists, who came to power in Iraq and Syria in the 1960s and decimated the communist parties there, along with the rest of their domestic opposition—secular and religious alike.

The secular Baathists, along with other U.S.-backed regimes in the region (especially in Egypt), were not receptive to the growing power of Islamists, often repressing them brutally. Yet while the regimes dismantled secular and left-wing opposition groups—and discredited the secular system itself with their own excesses—the ranks of Islamists managed to grow. Just as in the United States, where the civil rights movement and various right-wing evangelical causes found sanctuary in houses of worship, Islamists in the Middle East managed to grow their movement in the refuge of the mosque.

Even today, the United States seems more concerned about maintaining Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel—signed by Mubarak’s authoritarian predecessor Anwar Sadat—than with the welfare of Egyptians themselves. It was not even a year ago that the United States first advocated for a transitional Mubarak-led government in Egypt and, when that became untenable, supported the butcher of Egypt—the head of the hated security services, Omar Suleiman—as the transitional leader. Even without Suleiman, Egypt’s rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) more and more resembles a mere “coup d’état light.” By all appearances, the military is trying to maintain their control by any means necessary as long as it looks democratic. SCAF has used the same tactics as the previous regime—arbitrary arrest, kidnapping, torture, and imprisonment—to stay in control. The Egyptian people have other ideas in mind.

Beyond even such political and historical explanations, it should come as little surprise that Islamist slogans find fertile ground in the majority-Muslim Middle East—especially if we look at the United States itself. A cursory review of the GOP presidential candidates’ emphasis on their Christianity shows that religious politics are alive in East and West alike.

Yet U.S. pundits and politicians seem continually baffled about the appeal of Islamist parties in the region. The same pundits, such as the conservative Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, decry the “failure of the Muslim world’s secular movements to provide better forms of politics.”

Sea Change

In the rubble of authoritarian and corrupt secular regimes, democratically elected Islamists, mindful of the necessity of power-sharing and moderation, may be paving the way for the region’s transition to democracy. In Tunisia, where the Islamist Ennahda party won a plurality of the vote, the Constituent Assembly offered the presidency to Moncef Marzouki of the secular, left-leaning Congress for the Republic Party. Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, furthermore, has made several conciliatory statements toward other parties and tacked moderate on social issues, mindful that the people of Tunis in particular will not tolerate an oppressive cultural system dictated by the government. Newly elected Islamists from Morocco’s Justice and Development Party have made similar statements, while Libyan Islamist leaders have emphasized social justice and patriotism above religious issues.

In Egypt’s unusual multi-stage elections, the two large Islamist parties have won a clear majority. In the nine districts polled in the first round, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won nearly 37 percent of the vote, while the Salafist, Saudi-backed Nour Party took nearly 25 percent. Two rounds of voting remain. But rather than form a coalition with the Salafists, who favor a strict and conservative application of Islam in all aspects of life, the FJP is planning to join more moderate forces in any future government.

The Arab world is seeing a sea change. The Arab people are facing many crucial and important choices that will determine the future the Middle East. New Arab governments will face monumental challenges such as deep poverty, poor industrial infrastructure, broken health systems, and systemic corruption. And if the recent election results are any indication, the Islamists are here to stay.

The sooner the United States realizes this fact, the sooner it can enter into an honest and mutually beneficial dialogue with the region’s new leaders. There is no need for the hysteria and bellicose anti-Islamic rhetoric offered by many of the GOP’s presidential candidates. Instead, the United States can offer Arabs the educational and technical assistance they hunger for to promote their economic growth. The more America engages Arabs and Muslims abroad—while respecting their dignity and sovereignty—the better it can help them to become part of the world community.


Adil E. Shamoo is a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus and the author of the forthcoming book “Equal Worth — When Humanity Will Have Peace.” His email is ashamoo@som.umaryland.edu.


Recommended Citation:

Adil E. Shamoo, “Arab Islamists Are Here to Stay” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 16, 2011)


Striking workers slaughtered in Kazakhstan

Striking workers slaughtered in Kazakhstan


Striking workers slaughtered in Kazakhstan

Police have opened fire on striking oil workers in Kazakhstan. Independent reports claim that up to seventy people have been killed, and five hundred injured.

At a state run oil refinery in Kazakhstan, at least ten workers have been killed by police in violent clashes over wages, conditions, and the right to form independent political parties. Since the dispute has started the oil company has sacked over 1000 people for taking part.

Oil workers have been protesting since the spring, and have been camping out in a local town square as part of an on-going campaign.

Government officials attempted to remove demonstrators from the town square in order to host a party. However, when they refused to leave, the police opened fire on the crowd. Officials claim that ten people were killed, but journalists at the scene claim to have seen scores of people gunned down. A Russian language blog page has suggested that as many as seventy have been killed, and over 500 people have been injured.

It has been reported that the headquarters of the state run oil company and a local government building have been burnt down, and several police cars have been burnt out. Army armoured vehicles and helicopters are patrolling the city, there is a media blackout, and all social networking sites have been blocked.

“Askhat Daulbayev, Kazakhstan’s prosecutor general, said in televised remarks Friday that “having rudely violated the public order, the protesters attacked the policemen, toppled the New Year’s tree, destroyed the yurts placed there because of the holiday, as well as the stage and set a police bus on fire.” The Echo of Moscow radio station reported Friday evening that martial law was imposed and armoured personnel carriers were patrolling the town. Vesti, a Russian television channel, showed video of the smouldering remains of burned cars on the streets.”
The dispute has impacted on oil production and distribution, but has not yet spread to other areas of the oil field.

As well as increases in wages, and safer working conditions, the workers are demanding the release of their lawyer who is currently in jail, and they are demanding the nationalisation of the oil industry.

The government has attempted to turn public opinion against the workers. Ainash Tlekkablov, an advisor to the mayor stated that, “The moment the children came out of the square holding signs and flags, a beastly crowd with sticks and sawed-off pipes set upon them”. The government have not been able to provide any evidence to back up this allegation.

Earlier this year, Sting cancelled a concert in Kazakhstan in solidarity with the striking oil workers.

Solidarity comrades!