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Oil construction site brawl leaves over 40 injured after Lebanese man shares 'offensive' image of Kazakh woman

‘An interpersonal conflict took place among workers,’ say oil company as violence causes outcry in Arab world

Adam Forrest
Sunday 30 June 2019 14:58 BST
Tengiz oil construction site, where violence broke out on Saturday 29 June
Tengiz oil construction site, where violence broke out on Saturday 29 June (Tengizchevroil)

Dozens of workers at an oil facility in Kazakhstan were injured when violence involving Kazakh and Arab employees erupted following a dispute over a photo posted on social media.

Saturday’s brawl was sparked after a Lebanese contractor shared a photo on WhatsApp featuring a Kazakh female colleague that local staff found insulting, the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency reported.

More than 40 workers were treated for injuries after clashes at the construction site in Tengiz, the Tengizchevroil (TCO) oil company said in a statement, blaming only “interpersonal conflict”.

Kazakhstan interior minister also released a statement on Sunday stating that the situation at the construction site was “stable” and a police investigation had been launched.

Videos which appeared to show several Arab employees being attacked and beaten – which The Independent has not been able to verify – were widely circulated on social media in Middle Eastern countries on Sunday.

According to Lebanese and Jordanian officials, the wounded engineers and workers are Lebanese, Jordanian and Palestinian. At least 10 of those injured in the violence were Lebanese nationals, according to Beirut-based newspaper The Daily Star.

Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri ordered the secretary of the country’s military council to follow the case, while Lebanese defence minister Elias Bou Saab called his counterpart in Kazakhstan to discuss the protection of Lebanese workers.

One anonymous worker told Radio Free Europe the violence was triggered by a photograph originally shared among the mainly Arab foreign workers, an image “considered offensive” when seen by Kazakh employees.

The 3GP oil field where the clashes took place is managed by TCO, a joint venture that includes Chevron and ExxonMobil in partnership with the Kazakh government.

“On June 29, an interpersonal conflict took place among workers at the 3GP construction site causing several injuries of contractor employees,” said a Tengizchevroil spokesperson. “Medical assistance was provided to more than 40 workers at TCO clinics for non-life threatening injuries.

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“The situation is stable as of now and TCO continues to work closely with law enforcement bodies, government authorities and contractor companies to ensure the safety and well-being of the personnel at Tengiz.”

Nurlan Nogayev, the governor of Kazakhstan’s Atyrau region, claimed that the violence had resulted from disparities in working conditions between foreign contractors and local Kazakh employees.

Radio Free Europe also reported that tensions at the oil facility had been “rising” because of discrepancies in working conditions.

Additional reporting by AP

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