Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Tengiz Riots: What is at the Heart of the Tension between Turks and Kazakhs?

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Former Turkish President Turgut Ozal, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan

The riots between Kazakhs and Turks that took place in Tengiz a week ago last Friday have generated much discussion and interest around the world. Filipino authorities have expressed concern for their workers in Kazakhstan, and the Turkish embassy in Kazakhstan initially reacted to the event with a certain degree of outrage. Finally, Kazakh commentators have examined the event with an eye to what it says about their own country and its problems.

It is significant, however, that the event occurred between Kazakhs and Turks and that it is not the first such violence to erupt between the two groups in recent memory. The presence of such violence directed against Turks in Kazakhstan demonstrates the degree to which Turkey has fallen from grace in the region since the early 1990s.

In the early 1990s, under then president of Turkey Turgut Ozal, the Turkish presence in Kazakhstan was seen as a sign of friendship and common interest in a Turkic world that had suddenly expanded with the fall of the U.S.S.R. At that time, for example, the Turkish government sponsored a television station in Kazakhstan producing programs in Turkic languages after years of Russian linguistic dominance, and numerous other cultural exchange programs promoted the new found alliance between the two countries. While some people in Kazakhstan even in the early 1990s felt that Turks came to the region with too much arrogance, expecting to replace Russia as Central Asians’ “big brother,” Turkey was generally viewed positively and as a counterweight to dependence on Moscow. It was also at this time that the idea of the Baku-Tblisi-Cheyan pipeline first emerged.

With Ozal’s death, however, Turkey’s role in the region decreased. If Turkey began to show less political and cultural interest in Kazakhstan, it continued to be active economically. As a result, Kazakhs became increasingly cynical of their “Turkic brothers,” feeling as if they had only been interested in economic gains from the start. Furthermore, Turks in Kazakhstan (like many foreigner businessmen) generally behaved arrogantly towards local employees and local citizens throughout the 1990s.

Today, the situation is quickly changing as Kazakhstan’s economy continues to grow. Kazakhstanis now find it difficult to view the Turks as more advanced “big brothers” who deserve higher wages than local workers. Furthermore, many Kazakhs perceive of the Turks’ position in their country as facilitated by the United States. A recent article from a Kazakhstani website suggests, for example, that Turkey’s economic successes in Kazakhstan would not have been as significant “if not for the active lobbying and support of America.” While this may be an overstatement, the fact remains that many Kazakhs see the BTC pipeline, Turkey, and the United States as one united foreign interest that is in economic and political competition with Russia in their country. In this context, what could represent Kazakhs’ distrust of the BTC, Turkey, and the U.S. better than a riot against Turkish managers at a construction site in Tengiz?

Interestingly, this all comes at a time when Turkey is once again expressing increased political interest in Kazakhstan and Central Asia as a whole. It has been said that Turkey’s present prime minister Tayyip Erdogan is displaying an interest in Central Asia not seen since Ozal’s death. Furthermore, Erdogan’s interest in the region is viewed suspiciously by Moscow, especially given the threat that Russia sees in the establishment of the BTC pipeline. Such a trend also serves the interests of Kazakhstan in ensuring its independence from Russia and China, between which it is sandwiched. With Kazakhstan’s participation in the BTC pipeline and its recent announcement that it will adopt a Latin alphabet in favor of Cyrillic, it would seem that the leadership of Kazakhstan understands those advantages.

The question remains, however, if this most recent event could significantly detract from the trend of Turkey’s increased involvement in Kazakhstan. A “youtube” video of a Turkish television report (below) shows the drama with which the event is being portrayed to the Turkish public, while the comments by Turks and Kazakhs alike to the video show how much animosity has been built up on both sides.



In general, it would seem that the Tengiz riots should be seen as a warning sign to Turkey that it cannot take its relationship with Kazakhstan and the Kazakhs for granted. Interestingly, at least one recent editorial in the Turkish newspaper Zaman reflects an empathetic understanding of the animosity with which Kazakhs have begun to view the Turks. Turkey will need to reflect on this more if the country is to retain its favored economic status with Kazakhstan. More specifically, Turkey likely needs to reconsider its role as “big brother” in the Turkic world and engage countries like Kazakhstan as equals.

12 Comments:

Anonymous astana.kz said...

of course there are deeper reasons for the recent burst of violence in tengiz than plain ol’ ethnic animosity, such as widespread and persistent poverty, frustration with the slow pace of real economic recovery, government retreat across the board from the functions that were once considered its bread and butter - education, health care, entitlements. all of that is true and no doubt contributed in so small measure to the recent 'running of the turks' in tengiz. however, equally acute and gnawing social problems in karaganda did not degenerate into a fisticuffs free-for-all in the aftermath of an explosion at a coal mine which is part - by the way - of an indian-run international conglomerate. no indian was beat up, although anger at the indian management of the mine was at times near boiling point. in tengiz in the heat of battle no other foreigners were assaulted, aside from turks, although the project boasts a multi-national staff with people hailing from far and wide: from america to the philippines and everywhere in between. so eventhough the underlying social problems are the same the breadth and length of kazakhstan, what made the difference in tengiz, what triggered the release of the pent-up frustration was turkophobia. political correctness aside, turks when in large numbers have a tendency to behave arrogantly and aggressively, although alone or in small groups they are very much cowed and cowardly. what is also interesting but which has received scant attention in the media, if that, is the fact that local kazakh girls suspected of shacking up with turks were sought and beaten savagely, sometimes more so than the turks themselves. of course, none of this matters to tco or to the government. they've already found their scapegoats and are already back to what they do best, fleecing the country. the investigation is almost complete now, although it was very catch-as-catch-can. out of nearly a thousand people involved only four face indictments. all of the turks are back in turkey, some deported, most repatriated. the government, wary of tarnishing its long cultivate image as an island of stability, was loath to admit to something deeper and more sinister than simple anti-social behavior and battery fueled by personal animosity. there u have, my on-the-fly exegesis of the events.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's ridicilous to think or see Kazakstan as an equal to Turkey. With all its problems, Turkey's democracy and its commitment towards European values is no comparison to the totalitarian regime that exists in Kazakhstan. Nor that Kazakh economy is anything closer to the Turkey's maufacturing power. Without hydrocarbon resources Kazakhstan would have been another Kyrgyzstan. The problem is that Soviet mentality is still alive and well in Kazakstan. Foreigners and foreign investment is seen with suspicion. Basically what most of Central Asians want is that foreigners should come to invest but profits should be collected by locals. Also, as it is reported on this blog, the event against the turks is not the first one. Only weeks ago Indians were in trouble. (Mittal Steel)It's a clear sign of trouble if a Kazakh girl's price is similar to a menu item meal in McDonald's. The native elite should stop bending rules and laws to their own comfort and interests, and then they can complain about the foreign companies.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as i've been there it is more social reasons took place in tengiz,if you keep on looking at tengiz you can see italians' death, englishmen death, because they take better slary than local population

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is at the heart of tension between Kazakhs and Turks?
Wow, you must be joking.
I actually work on the SGP SGI project in Kazakhstan in Tengiz and was present when the riot happened.
As an oilman I have worked all over the world but have never in my life met a more hostile,uneducated,ignorant, savage,bad mannered,uncouth, intolerant,breed of animals such as the Kazakh locals in my life.
The Kazakh regime cover this up but it has to be said.I do not care what people say,I have seen these people with my own eyes.
One cannot leave the camp, [shanyrak village] without the fear of being robbed or killed,there is no police protection, because if the locals with their gangs don't get you, the police will.The police and the locals see every expat oil worker as a walking cash machine ripe for robbery.
There have been countless victims of police brutality, violence and abuse of human rights that I feel strongly enough to say this.Just walk down the street in the daytime if you are not a Kazakh and if you do not get attacked or robbed by the locals you will be arrested by the police for vomiting or urinating in public.You will only be released if you are lucky and have the money on you to pay them off.
It is totally lawless.
Corruption of course is rife and this is a major contributary factor to the lawlessness.
To illustrate a point, we had a murder on the camp one night [not the first] in which one local Kulsary youth cut the throat of another Kulsary man [perhaps a local dispute?] and since then the corrupt "security" have been searching expats for knives.
I have never in my experience seen so much human rights abuses in all my life but of course the government of Kazakhstan will deny it because they are corrupt too.
I have images and video of dead people [and saw dead people right in front of me]but yet they still say no fatalities occurred as a result of the riot.The Kazakh people are making a rod for their own backs in this respect.
They are not just against the Turks.They are against Indians,Fillipinos,Hungarians,Romanians,English,Americans,Indonesians and of course Russians.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For years since the collapse of the Soviet Union locals like me were treated unfairly comparing to foreigners. Foreigners had higher salaries, foreigners could brake the law and then easily got away with it, foreigners have been looking at me as if they are better than me. I am sick of this. What happened in Tengiz is the projection of my feelings shared by many people.

We did not have money after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Factories were closed. Half of the population was unemployed. Criminal activity was the way to survive. You had to stay in the waiting line for hours just to buy some food and be able to feed your family. Those were hard times.

The only solution to get out of this 'deep hole' was to find funds from abroad. In order to attract foreign investments we had to sell our assets at prices much lower than their real value. Some people thinking of their own interests sold too much - they sold their motherland - their pride - their future. I don't see much difference between a prostitute and a government official selling the state owned copper mine/oil field/gas field for the price of 1/100 of its value, just to be able to live according to a "Nouveau riche style". It is time for Kazakhstan to start defending its interest and stop acting like a @hore. It is time to start thinking about the future.

I would have been against the riot if it happened with English, French or American people. In case with Turks they deserve it. The way they act is incredibly rude. They think they can do whatever they want. They make locals feel humiliated. They hire a Kazak girl and then try to persuade her to have sex. If she disagrees they fire her and don’t get punished for that. They talk to male employees like a slaver would talk to a slave. It is incredible why this riot happened only now. Probably because Kazakhstani people are very tolerant. This was the first act of defending the pride of the Kazakhstani people. Actually the riot did not happen only against Turks. It happened against the government too. This was the public demonstration of the anger. Western nations advise us to be more democratic. What happened is the first sign of democracy – people showing their attitudes. So guys you should be happy for us.

P.S: Comments about the previous responses:

“Only weeks ago Indians were in trouble. (Mittal Steel)It's a clear sign of trouble if a Kazakh girl's price is similar to a menu item meal in McDonald's”

1) No Indian was hurt or attacked in Kazakhstan after the explosion. Did anyone, you know died in the accident. No… Well my friend’s brother died there. So please be wise and accept that people are angry at the management of the company that cannot provide safe working conditions.
2) May be its Cambodia or Zambia where you can buy a girl for the price of a meal item in McDonalds. Its not KZ for sure.

“They are not just against the turks. They are against Indians,Fillipinos,Hungarians,Romanians,English,Americans,Indonesians and of course Russians.”

Why are you lying? I am a Kazak and I don’t have any strong negative feelings against any of those people, except Turks. And that is a common perception in our society. But I can see that you have some bad attitude toward Kazaks.

We don’t blame foreigners for wanting to make as much profits in For years since the collapse of the Soviet Union locals like me were treated unfairly comparing to foreigners. Foreigners had higher salaries, foreigners could brake the law and then easily got away with it, foreigners have been looking at me as if they are better than me. I am sick of this. What happened in Tengiz is the projection of my feelings shared by many people. But we Kazaks should understand that also the relatives of the President, all those sitting in the top were doing same things and getting away with it. But I will talk about this a bit later.

To begin with let me start with the short background. We did not have money after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Factories were closed. Half of the population was unemployed. Criminal activity was the way to survive. You had to stay in the waiting line for hours just to buy some food and be able to feed your family. Those were hard times.

The only solution to get out of this 'deep hole' was to find funds from abroad. In order to attract foreign investments we had to sell our assets at prices much lower than their real value. Some people thinking of their own interests sold too much - they sold their motherland - their pride - their future. I don't see much difference between a prostitute and a government official selling the state owned copper mine/oil field/gas field for the price of 1/100 of its value, just to be able to make quick cash to be able to live "Nouveau riche dream". It is time for Kazakhstan to start defending its interest and stop acting like a @hore. It is time to start thinking about the future.

I would have been against the riot if it had happened with English, French or American people. In case with Turks they – I say THEY DESERVE IT. The way they act is incredibly rude. They think they can do whatever they want. They make locals feel humiliated. They hire a Kazak girl and then try to persuade her to have sex. If she disagrees they fire her and don’t get punished for that. They talk to male employees like a slaver would talk to a slave. It is incredible why this riot happened only now. Probably because Kazakhstani people are very tolerant. This was the first act of defending the pride of the Kazakhstani people. Actually the riot did not happen only against Turks. It happened against the government too. This was the public demonstration of the anger. Western nations advise us to be more democratic. What happened is the first sign of democracy – people showing their attitudes. So guys you should be happy for us.

P.S: Comments about the previous responses:

“Only weeks ago Indians were in trouble. (Mittal Steel)It's a clear sign of trouble if a Kazakh girl's price is similar to a menu item meal in McDonald's”

1) No Indian was hurt or attacked in Kazakhstan after the explosion. Did anyone, you know died in the accident. No… Well my friend’s brother died there. So please be wise and accept that people are angry at the management of the company that cannot provide safe working conditions.
2) May be its Cambodia or Zambia where you can buy a girl for the price of a meal item in McDonalds. Its not KZ for sure.

“The problem is that Soviet mentality is still alive and well in Kazakstan. Foreigners and foreign investment is seen with suspicion. Basically what most of Central Asians want is that foreigners should come to invest but profits should be collected by locals.”

We don’t blame foreigners for wanting to make as much profits in Kazakhstan, incurring as little expenses as possible. That is natural – that is business. We blame our government for not being able to protect us to a better extent than they do now. You should understand that. However some times with the Turks it is not the issue of government, it is personal issue!

“They are not just against the turks. They are against Indians,Fillipinos,Hungarians,Romanians,English,Americans,Indonesians and of course Russians.”

Why are you lying? I am a Kazak, me and my friends neither of us have any negative feelings against any of those people, may be a little bit about some Turks who act like savages. I understood one thing from what you say – you hate Kazakhstan.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous fred said...

Good discussion
get in mine at fredericsantelli.blogspot.com
we'll be able to compare our opinions about all the social issues turning aroung the big Kazakhstan.
Cheers
Fred

4:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was working in Mittal Steel in Temirtau Kazakhstan and then later on joined the work in Tengiz.
first of all i have to state that NO INDIAN WAS HURT hurt throughout the whole work of Ispat-Karmet (initial name of Mittal Steel,recent name Mittal Arcelor Steel).but 43 KAZAKHSTAN MINEWORKERS DIED this year and 23 PEOPLE DIED two years ago in Karaganda coal mine.

i preferred to work in Tengiz cause of low salary (200 hundred dollars per month),dirty behaviour towards girls from indian managers, absence of system of promotion if person really deserved that,corruption etc.
u want facts ?come to restaurant Roxana or Kosmos in Temirtau city on saturday night and there u will get nice chance to see how indians behave.once just pass by office of general director and then u will learn that secretary is supposed to put on jacket on her boss. great Mr. Naval Kishore Chaudhary does not know that there is no kast system in Kazakhstan...next example - Anoop Lal Choudhary (auditor) was selecting candidates for his department with one condition: she had to work with no payment at all and stay at work after 6 p.m with him and only then he would might think of recruitment.ask human resources manager mr. Khamitov on how many ladies work in audit department. i will tell you now-all ladies. enough with examples gentlemen, otherwise list wil be too long.... in case u still have doubts i put another-mr. Garg Brijesh was bringing prostitutes to office after 6 pm. he was manager procurement and supply of girls was made by company Antal and club Fauna. this company has won many tenders during Slab Caster Project.

Many of so called indian managers who worked in Ispat did not have even college education. i know indian accountant who worked as manager.u may assume he graduated from Delhi University ? no way ! only courses of accountants.
i think now we have to go ahead now with Senimdi Kurilis. for your info there lots of other companies in Tengiz who has turkish employees. i am talking about those kind of employees who does not have at least collage education.Companies like Sicim Bonatti, MTG,Atyrau Multiservices are good examples.

i personally know many turkish so called engineers from SK, who graduated from colleges yesterday and got a job in Tengiz. they themselves told me that it is easy, family connections are often used in recruitment issues. ask human resource manager of SK on average age of turkish engineers ? i will tell u now- from 20 to 28 years old. ask him number of turkish welders in SK... u will be surprised but this figure is really big. are not there any welders in Kazakhstan ? or crane operators ?

i highly recommend you to visit bar "Bottoms Up" or "Derevyashkya" in Tengiz rotational village and there u will see how "decent" are turkish employees towards girls.before this riot, there was one incident between kazakh girls and turkish managers. they put some drugs into the drinks of girls and then took them to hotel. Company NSS has got all required facilites in its hotel. near bar Tropikana. Those turkish people raped girls and recorded that on video. u know, it can be done so easily with mobile phone nowadays. and then next day they were boasting in front of kazakh labourers and showing them videos.
repeating same words :"we fuck u in the daytime and ur girls in the night"....is there anything else to add?


i was lucky and matured enough to work in american company like TCO. my suggestions-lets not make general statements for whole of kazakh nation for happened events.i do not believe in killing and beating people. i still strongly believe that there are many decent and good persons among turkish. there are in every nation. cause i met soturks me decent and very religious turks and not religious also and my friend married to very good turkish guy.

I DO NOT MEAN TO JUSTIFY ANY VIOLENCE IN TENGIZ. I WANT YOU ALL TO BE AWARE OF THAT AND THINK FIRST BEFORE MAKING ANY GENERAL STATEMENTS ON KAZAKHS.

2:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:16 AM  
Blogger C said...

I am horrified. I work with Turks, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, etc, All fantastic people. I am British. To take advantage of any people is just showing that you have absolutey no right to take your opinions to another country. It's a disgrace. If this is true about how women are treated Indians and Turks should be ashamed. You are 20yrs away from reality at least. Respect others as you want to be respected otherwise their is no point. These people are the scum of the earth.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was also in Tengiz at the time of the riot working for Bechtel as part of the SK JV, and I know that several Turkish guys lost their lives. 3 locals were held for 48 hours and released without charge. Disgraceful. I am sure it would have been a very different scenario had Kazakhs lost their lives.

The riot was a very well planned and orchestrated event, having been ordered from the dark, stinking filth of Kulsary. The operating company, Tengizchevroil (Chevron) or TCO knew it was going to happen, yet did nothing to intervene, and within 2-3 weeks of the ‘incident’ as we were told to call it, TCO, PFD (Parsons Fluor Daniel), and Bechtel expected everybody to continue business as usual. The only company who expressed disgust and worry, and rightly so, was our SK partner, ENKA. To this day, the Kazakhstan government of Chevron deny any fatalities as result of that fateful day of 20 October 2006. I think it is absolutely disgusting that a company of Chevron’s stature in the international oil & gas industry would allow such a cover-up to protect its reputation.

For the SGI and SGP contracts, Chevron employed the services of Group 4 Security. They obviously employed local guys, the majority of which originated from Kulsary. These savages did nothing to assist in security, instead choosing to persecute expat workers continuously, yet allowing such barbaric activities as muggings and murder to be common-place in the Shanyrak accommodation camp. During the riot, members of Group 4 were also witnessed to be involved. Something else that was denied by TCO.

To say that Kazakhs are a peaceful race of people is a joke. I have seen their uneducated, wild dog-like behaviour many times, and I find it deplorable that anybody can condone such behaviour. Especially the Mickey-Mouse Government of Kazakhstan, spouting such nonsense that the people of Kazakhstan are friendly and welcome foreigners with open arms.

I have been witness to the unbelievable level of corruption within the ‘police’, particularly endlessly hounding expat workers for the customary, and expected, pay-off. It was out of control in Tengiz, and is still continuing to this day in Atyrau. How do I know; because I have seen it happening with my own eyes?

If these barbaric, uneducated feral ‘things’ continue to wage continued disdain to the very people who are trying to raise this country to some sort of acceptable level, I can see the expat workers leaving this place, leaving it to return to it’s lawless ways of yester-year. Maybe that is not a bad thing, all things considered. People can only be educated if they want to be. From my personal experiences in Kazakhstan, the people I have encountered want everything for nothing.

12:25 AM  
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