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Kazakhstan risks backlash over labor crackdown

International criticism could hamper government image-building effort

Oil drilling services workers in the Kazakh town of Zhanaozen prepare to go on shift at dawn. (Photo by Naubet Bisenov)

ALMATY -- Kazakhstan is facing the growing prospect of an international backlash over a crackdown on labor unions that has curtailed workers' rights and increased the likelihood of social unrest and political destabilization.

In January, a court in the southern city of Shymkent closed Kazakhstan's Confederation of Independent Trade Unions and its affiliates, including the first trade union of domestic workers established in the former Soviet Union. The confederation had failed to register its constituent trade unions, which in turn was a result of technical and legal barriers erected by local authorities.

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