"The authorities haven’t let us into the city. If everying's fine there, shouldn't they let us in?"
Myself and several other human rights activists wanted to go to Zhanaozen to see what’s happening and talk to people there. Zhanaozen residents are afraid to talk and don’t trust the press, so we wanted to see the situation for ourselves.We’ve been trying to get in for several days now, but the authorities haven’t let us in the city. The roads are blocked by men in Hummers armed with Kalashnikovs. If, as they’re saying, everything’s fine there, and everything has calmed down, shouldn't they let us in? But for now, only journalists from the official state television stations are permitted to enter the city. Everybody else – human rights activists, politicians, and other journalists – are banned from it. I’m a journalist as well, writing for an opposition paper. But the authorities have told me: “We won’t let you in.” So apparently they do not want the truth to get out.Zhanaozen has been shut down. People are fleeing the city. They come here, to Aktau, where we are staying, to ask us for help. Wednesday morning, for instance, I got a call from a woman, also an activist. All she managed to say was: “They’ve come after me. I’m in a prosecutor’s office.” “They’ve come after me” is what people say when they know they’re in major trouble. We’re getting reports that many people are being arrested in Zhanaozen right now. The authorities go from house to house, pry the doors open and take people out. We don’t know if it’s the police, the OMON [counter-terrorism units] or other forces – they do not show any identification.In Aktau, where I am now, there are protests every day. The police haven’t attacked these protesters, but we have reports that they are being intimidated. The police are telling people that if they don’t stay away from the protests, they will lose their jobs. So people are getting scared. Tuesday, there were about 2,000 protesters out in the main square; Wednesday, there were much less.”