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Dialogue about the future of Kazakhstan is of particular importance at the present time when the country is on the brink of change.

The strike in Zhanaozen acquired symbolic meaning, separating two phases of the modern history of Kazakhstan.

Despite official statements and international obligations, Kazakhstan does not respect fundamental human or civil rights. Opposition leaders, civil society organisations and the few mass-media, which are independent from the authorities, have been subjected to pressure.

In 2011, the list of organisations that are considered by the government as a potential threat, was extended to include the striking employees of the oil sector in the town of Zhanaozen, located in the heart of the oil region in the West of the country.

The politically active, intellectual elite in their resistance to the ruling system have acquired a strong ally. The authorities responded with increased oppression, and the strike ended in bloodshed and the arrest of its participants. Opposition and independent media were accused of provoking the conflict.

Opposition leaders have been prosecuted and sentenced to many years’ imprisonment and the media have been recognised as extremist groups and deemed illegal.