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Riot police repelled by shanty town residents in Kazakhstan
AT 10.30am on 5 April, a battalion of police, backed up by 'rapid response' riot police, the KNB (former KGB) agents, the City Procurer, firefighters and bailiffs, turned up at the Shanyrak district of Alma-Ata city, to raze to the ground the homes of landless residents.
Socialist Resistance (CWI) reporters, Alma-Ata
Surrounding several quarters, and with bulldozers, the police attempted to begin the demolition of homes. But dozens of women and pensioners, along with members from the Almata Workers' Movement and Socialist Resistance (CWI), surrounded the vehicles and prevented them from moving. The protesters' aim was to gain time, to gather opposition forces.
The Alma-Ata city authorities are determined to destroy the homes of settlers who have built poor but dignified living quarters on the outskirts of the city. Many of those who live in Shanyrak were driven out of their last homes by the collapse of industry in Kazakhstan, in the early and mid-nineties. Now the Alma-Ata City authorities want the land, to build 'entertainment complexes' and elite flats for Kazakhstan's 'new rich'.
Protesters flood to Shanyrak
WHEN THE bulldozers moved in to Shanyrak, the press and TV soon turned up, as did people from neighbouring areas. Within an hour, hundreds of protesters flooded to the conflict zone. Women and children lay down in front of the bulldozers. Young men attempted to drag drivers out of the bulldozer cabins.
Although the police tried constantly to tear people away, by noon the drivers announced they were not prepared to go on. Then the authorities became desperate. They attempted to release a work-gang from a neighboring prison camp, giving the prisoners instructions to destroy the Shanyrak residents' homes. But even though they were threatened with truncheons, the prisoners refused to do the police's dirty work.
The conflict lasted for hours: on the one side, the residents, activists from the Workers' Movement, Socialist Resistance, and other organizations, and, on the other side, the police. Ainur Kurmanov, a well-known Socialist Resistance member in Alma-Ata, was held under siege all day. As he tried to leave his home in the morning, his path was blocked by several police cars, with the occupants sneering at him.
By one o'clock, the disputed quarters were completely surrounded by police and no-one was allowed to go near the area. Bailiffs, backed by squads of riot police, attempted to break through the crowd, but with no success. By this time, all the bulldozer drivers, and other workers brought along by the police, refused to act against residents, and fire crews refused to use water-hoses against the crowd. After four hours of battle, and huge efforts by the police, the authorities only got to one house.
The Shanyrak struggle reveals the real, brutal nature of the Nazarbayev regime, which defends the interests of the property speculators. Public opinion in Kazakhstan is turning against the Ama-Ata city authorities. The struggle for the streets of Shanyrak is a struggle against the regime and its bandit-capitalist supporters. We need to do everything we can to defend the Shanyrak homes and to aid the residents' courageous opposition.
CWI members will be organising protests outside Kazakhstan embassies.
For details of where to send protests see: www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 13 April 2006:
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