In 2011, the town of Zhanaozen ('new river' in Kazakh) became a symbol of hope for political change in Kazakhstan. For the first time in over twenty years of independence in Kazakhstan, workers of the fuel industry, which is integral to the country's economy, began mass protests against exploitation and dictatorship.
Previously, they passively listened to the voices of discontent coming from the intellectual elites of Almaty and the independent media. Within seven months of the strike's commencement there were no observed instances of violations of public order by its members. Despite the peaceful form of the industrial action, the authoritarian government failed to enter into dialogue with the strikers.
In order to suppress the protest, security services used provocation, beatings carried out by 'unidentified attackers', social pressure, staged accidents and sent oil workers and activists to detention centres. In December 2011, the strike was stopped by force.
The tragic events in Zhanaozen seriously undermined the credibility of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The bloodshed in this town, located in the desert, has become a tragic symbol in the history of the country, but these events have also brought hope for political changes in Kazakhstan.