I was invited to participate in a Human Rights Observation Mission in Kazakhstan during Oct-Nov 2012 in collaboration with the Open Dialog Foundation. With international group we visited in the former capital Almaty and in Oil-Rich Western Region in Aktau, Zhanaozen and Shetpe.
The mission was realized less than year after a decimation of local oil workers. The Kazakh authorities eliminated a long-lasting strike movement by shooting, beating, torturing, raping and harassing hundreds of people who were demanding better salaries and labour rights in a very poor region with rich natural resources. Fear, sorrow and spying police were still very strongly present in the atmosphere.
Articles & photos published in Voima magazine 16.4.013: Niinistö, älä unohda ihmisoikeuksia!, Open Dialog Foundation: Mr. President, remember about human rights!, Suomen Kuvalehti magazine 11.3.2013: Kazakstan: Media syyllinen ääriajatteluun, Suomen Kuvalehti magazine 10/2013: Kansa kuriin, Kukka Ranta & Oksana Tšelyševa, Voima magazine 2/2013: Öljyn valtakunta.
Photography Exhibition “Silenced Voices” in Fiskars, Finland as part of the group exhibition SPARK / KIPINÄ, 12 May – 15 September 2013.
PEOPLE: For the past ten years Kazakhstan has been the third fastest growing economy in the world afer China and Qatar – especially due its large-scale oil felds. There is a will to expand the economy, but economic growth is overshadowed by the forthcoming distributon of power. Since 1991, the country has been led autocratcally by a 72-year-old President Nursultan Nazarbayev who is sufering from cancer, and has gathered huge fortunes in billions of euros for his family and circle of acquaintances. Along with aging of the president the human rights situaton is intensifying at extreme, while the country has no experience of democratc and legal electons. Nazgul Bazarbaevan is an immigrant living in a suburb of the former capital Almaty, and there has been tough street batles between police and the residents. Poor people moving from rural to urban centers live constantly under threat of an evicton in a country full of corruption. Street batles took place in a corner of 60 years old Bazarbaevan’s house. ”Even the birds defend their nets”, she said.
EVICTED: Nuriyash Abdrimova’s husband was involved in the strike in Zhanaozen. There were about total of 15 000 people participating in the strike movement during 2011. The ladies who organized food support for the strikers gathered at Abdrimova’s house. As a result of her politcal activites her apartment was sold to the bank without her knowledge, and now she’s fightng against the illegal evicton in court.
INVALID: A Young man in his 30s wounded in feet by police bullets and became disabled for the rest of his life. The bullet hit in a nerve in his groin, afer surgery his other leg got shorter than other. Shooting took place at night tme at 11pm when he was on his way back to home with his wife. Police started to shoot in Shetpe day afer the Zhanaozen massacre.
EXTREMIST: In November 2012 the Kazakh State Prosecuton announced all independent media members an oppositon organizatons guilty of extremism. In December, police closed the oftice of Respublika newspaper, confiscated equipment suppliers, and threatened journalists with imprisonment. Oxana Makushina is a deputy editor of the newspaper. Respublika is one of the most important voice of Kazakh oppositon, and was among the firsts to report on the situaton in Zhanaozen. When the magazine was launched about ten years ago, there was a dog without head hangin at office door, stabbed with a screwdriver with a message: “There won’t be any other time”. Next day the office was set on fire.
SORROW: Muratbek Tapbaev’s, friend and Viktor Bozhenko’s younger brother Alexandr was murdered in age of 21 in October 2012. He had become a key witness. Alexandr testfed in court during spring 2012 about police tortures that happened during several months in police cells right afer the Zhanaozen massacre. Alexandr had heard how a commandment to use violence came directly from the president. Five months later, he was murdered.
RAPE: Roza Tulekaeva, a mother of Alia Tulekaeva, 25, was one of leaders in the Zhanaozen oil workers strike movement. Roza Tulekaeva was sentenced for seven- years in prison. She was forced for a false confession by torture and rape in a police custody. The final break down occurred when police threatened to rape two young daughters of Roza. Alia presents a drawing of her mother’s hand send from prison. Rosa is calling help from internatonal Womens Rights Organizatons. In April 2013 Roza Tulekaeva went on a hunger strike.
HELPER: Many citzens around Zhanaozen and the region nearby began to help the strikers by organizing food and funding families of the strikers. Aluash Ungarova, 64, had no relatives working for oil companies, but she began actively to support the strikers in honor of men. ”I could not just look at how desperate they looked like, they needed moral support and I brought it to them.”
LOSS: Shetpe is a small town in the middle of a desert, 150 kilometers to northwest from Zhanaozen. Zhanibek Tolegenov, 55, is holding a picture of his son who died by police bullets. Day afer the massacre in Zhanaozen, special force police opened fire against civilians in a train station at Shetpe. Torebek Tolegenov, 30, was a firefghter, who tried to calm the riot police to not to use weapons against civilians. Shootings lasted in from a midday till late night. Zhanibek Tolegenov got hits in his car too while he was urging to a hospital where his son died for several injuries.
HENCHMAN: In the middle of a desert and oil felds near Zhanaozen there lies a muslim graveyard, where Alexandr was buried in October 2012. The Imam who responded the graveyard was singing next to a week old grave, just a moment before he had called the secret police to come and spy the visitors.
STRIKER: During spring 2012 there were 37 striker cases on trial, of whom 13 were sentenced to imprisonment from three to seven years. Aino Daribaeva is holding a picture of her husband Kanat Zhusipaev, who is holding a six-year sentence. The family have three children, of whom the youngest is 6 months and the oldest 10 years old. Aino is also taking care of her husband’s autistic brother. There are no incomes, they lack money for food and rent. Aino is afraid of loosing their home.