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Zhanaozen oil strike and massacre 2011, Kazakhstan

In May 2011, thousands of workers from Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector started three separate labor strikes.


The oil fields of western Kazakhstan, where the 2011 strike wave erupted, are the most significant source of the Kazakh elite’s wealth, and an important source of supplies for the international oil market. Kazakhstan is the second-largest oil producer after Russia among former Soviet countries: its output is nearly twice that of Azerbaijan’s, and not much less than Norway’s. The state oil company Kazmunaigaz operates the largest oilfield, Tengiz, together with American and Russian companies (Chevron, ExxonMobil and Lukoil). The huge Kashagan field, offshore in the North Caspian sea, is being developed jointly by Kazmunaingaz and big European and American companies. Chinese oil corporations play a significant part in onshore projects, and their influence has grown since an oil pipeline to China was completed in 2006.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Zhanaozen oil strike and massacre 2011, Kazakhstan
State or province:Mangystau Region
Location of conflict:Zhanaozen
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

UzenMunaiGas is wholly state-owned subsidiary of KazMunaiGas Exploration and Production located in Zhanaozen.

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Project area:Approx. 28,000 hectares
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:>2000 (at least 12 people killed; 2,000 fired workers; at least 50 oil workers prosecuted)
Start of the conflict:01/05/2011
End of the conflict:01/06/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Kaz Munai Gas from Kazakhstan
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:• Union Solidarity International,
• Human Rights Watch,
• Unregistered opposition party Alga!
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Informal workers
International ejos
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Oil spills
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Other socio-economic impactsThis was a labour conflict more than an environmental conflict
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:After the riots that occurred in May 2011 and the death of at least 12 strikers, the activists were criminalized and repressed.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

• Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, August 20, 1995, with additions and amendments of February 2, 2011

• Kazakhstan Labor Code

• Law On Professional Unions

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

AGRA Earth & Environmental Limited, UZEN Environmental Assessment of Rehabilitation Streategies, UZEN Oil Field Project, Prepared for: The Government of Kazakhstan, Prepared by: AGRA Earth & Environmental Limited, Calgary, Alberta, September 1994, CEO1465.300,
[click to view]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) (2012), Striking Oil, Striking Workers. Violations of Labor Rights in Kazakhstan's Oil Sector, Human Rights Watch, September 2012,
[click to view]

Full report in English, "Zhanaozen: worker organisation and repression", in People and Nature
[click to view]

Police shootings caught on camera in besieged Kazah town, by Aizhanul Amirova, France 24, The Observers, 22 December 2011,
[click to view]

Kazah Zhanaozen oil unrest spreads to regional capital, BBC News Asia, 18 December 2011,
[click to view]

KazMunaiGas homepage, Oil and gas sector,
[click to view]

Kazakhstan: Investigate Violence in Oil-Rich Western Region, Human Rights Watch, 17 December 2011,
[click to view]

Deadlock in Kazakhstan as oil workers strike, BBC News Asia-Pacific, 25 October 2011,
[click to view]

A Year After Deadly Riots, Zhanaozen Is Quiet But Angry, by Daisly Sindelar and Sania Toiken, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, 16 December 2012,
[click to view]

Kazah police are jailed over Zhanaozen violence, BBC News Asia, 28 May 2012,
[click to view]

Clashes between police and sacked oil workers in Kazakhstan leave 10 dead, Associated Press, The Guardian, 16 December 2011,
[click to view]

Kazakhstan, ENERGY,,
[click to view]

Kazah Activist Convicted Over Zhanaozen Protest Freed From Prison, by RFE/RL's Kazah Service, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, 19 November 2014,
[click to view]

Daughter of Kazakh strike leader found dead, by Christopher Pala, MarketWatch, 27 August 2011,
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Zhanaozen protest descending into violence on December 16, Video posted to Youtube by kanat88ast,
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1942
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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