JERUSALEM/MOSCOW: A brawl between Kazakh workers and their Arab colleagues in one of Kazakhstan's largest oil fields injured 30 people and sparked an outcry in Jordan and Lebanon.
Videos of the attacks on Arab engineers and workers were widely circulated on social media in Arab countries. The scenes showed them being kicked and punched by large numbers of local colleagues. Some of those attacked were covered in blood and their faces suffering serious bruises.
The attacks happened after Eli Daoud, an engineer from Lebanon, posted a short video on social media featuring a Kazakh woman. He put his hand over the woman’s mouth while he was speaking on his walkie-talkie, which some locals felt was insulting to their country.
Later Daoud said: “I apologize to my friends and the people of Kazakhstan, a country I have been working in for two years. The video was not meant to be insulting to my colleagues.”
The engineers work for CCC, the Middle East’s largest construction company, which employs more than 100 Jordanian, Palestinian and Lebanese staff in Kazakhstan. The attack on Saturday appears to have been a reprisal targeting all CCC’s Arab staff.
Interfax-Kazakhstan reported Sunday that the oilfield is managed by Tengizchevroil, TCO, a joint venture that includes Chevron and ExxonMobil.
Nurlan Nogayev, the governor of Atyrau region, said during a meeting with company management that the brawl resulted from disparities in working conditions between foreign contractors and local Kazakh employees.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered Secretary General of the High Relief Committee, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir to follow the case.
Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab also called his counterpart in Kazakhstan to discuss protecting the Lebanese workers.
Kheir told the local MTV television that the situation now is under control. He added that a total of 17 Arabs, including one Lebanese and six Palestinians using Lebanese travel documents, were among the injured.
Lebanon's ambassador to Kazakhstan Jescar Khoury told local media that all Lebanese citizens who worked at the oil field are now under police protection in a hotel in a nearby city.
In Jordan, Crown Prince Hussein asked the country's prime minister and minister for foreign affairs to follow the case of Jordanian citizens.
The Kingdom’s ambassador traveled to the oil field to meet the injured workers.
A foreign ministry spokesman said Saturday they requested that the Kazakh authorities provide “all necessary measures to provide immediate security protection for the Jordanian citizens.” Jordan’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, Yousef Abdel Ghani, met the engineers on Sunday.
Jordanian MP Khalil Attiyeh called on Prime Minister Omar Razzaz to lodge an official complaint with the Kazakh government. “This is an unacceptable attack and I call on the government to send an official delegation to follow up on the case of Jordanians in general, and those injured in particular, and ensure their safe return to the homeland,” he said.