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Kazakhstan shuts down cell phones, Internet to stem protests

By Business Insider
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 14:25 EDT
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A person browses the Internet. Photo: AFP.
 
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By Adam Taylor

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, autocratic ruler of the post-Soviet country for 20 years, has reportedly shut down large portions of his country’s mobile and internet networks in a bid to quell recent rioting, TechEye reports.

Details on the uprising are unclear given the secretive nature of Nazarbayev’s government, but reports from Eurasianet suggest the protests are a response to the death of at least 10 people in anti-government gatherings in Zhanaozen, an oil-producing town, on the country’s December 16 Independence Day celebrations.

A few hundred workers are thought to have been involved in a long dispute over wages — a large number for a country that has long existed without any visible dissent.

As protests gathered steam in surrounding towns over the weekend, Nazarbayev was able to implement emergency rule in Zhananozen, restricting journalists movement in out and out of the city, according to Eurasianet, and allegedly blocking access to sites such as Twitter.

TechEye reports that the government was also able to switch off mobile phone networks and internet connections in Zhanaozen to hinder organization. The government denies this and alleges that the networks went out due to damages caused by rioters.

Authorities now insist that the uprisings in Zhanaozen, a city of 90,000, have been calmed.

However Reuters reports that today a hundred protestors — sacked in May from their jobs on oil fields after striking — have faced off against riot police in Aktau, capital of the western Mangistau region, demanding to know who ordered the police to fire on the crowd in Zhanaozen.

“Why did our relatives die as a result of a peaceful, social argument?” Nurzhan Imangaliyev told the news agency.

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