North Caucasus


Source: Al Jazeera

Say the words Chechen rebels and most people think of the Beslan school massacre and the Moscow theatre siege, in which hundreds of civilians were killed.

Most people might also think that the war between the Chechens and Russians in the remote mountainous region of the Caucasus is over, but this is not the full truth…

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From beyond the grave: A searing indictment of Putin’s protegé

A report by Natalya Estemirova, the Russian activist murdered in Chechnya as she investigated human rights abuses

The Independent
Friday, 17 July 2009

The abductions in Chechnya started nearly a decade ago. In 2000, Russian forces took control of practically the entire territory of the republic, and started extensive mop-up operations in villages.

Thousands of murders and abductions took place; these operations were declared to be an efficient method in the fight against rebels. In reality, however, the troops and police were looting the houses of unprotected civilians, at times taking away everything from them, from cars and furniture to shampoos and female underwear.

Most horrifically of all, women were raped in front of their male relatives, and all the men were detained, from teenagers to old men: they were either cruelly beaten, or released for ransom, or else they disappeared forever.

Large-scale “mop-up” operations stopped after 2003, but the abductions did not. Most often, one or two people would be taken from their homes in the middle of the night. Some were fortunate to return home barely alive after several days or weeks of cruel beating and torture – always ransomed by their relatives. But if the family of the abducted person could not gather the necessary sum or find the mediator, a dead body would be found some time later, or the victim would disappear for good. There were also those who – after their disappearance – appeared in court and were sentenced for grave crimes, despite their insistence that they had only confessed under prolonged torture.

Many things would change when Ramzan Kadyrov became President of Chechnya in 2007. Large-scale reconstruction began; Grozny changed by the day, its streets newly covered with asphalt and houses boasting plastic window frames and fresh plastering. Observers started talking about the wonders of the young President. From the inside the renovated houses did not look so beautiful, with no interior works done, and no proper utilities ensured. Since then, Kadyrov has attempted to engineer a further change of ideas. The President is advancing his campaign for a “revival of spiritual traditions”… making women and young girls “dress properly”, and above all wear headscarves in public.

Meanwhile, Kadyrov invites Russian pop celebrities to Chechnya and gives them lavish presents. No one dares to ask how these visits are sponsored, or how they comply with the Chechen “tradition”. No one dares to object to anything Kadyrov says or does, just as no one dared to object to Stalin’s words or deeds in the former Soviet Union. Peace in the republic and the successes in fighting terrorism are widely advertised; yet in reality rebel fighters frequently attack policemen, the numerous branches of the military structures constantly clash, and people keep being abducted. The main difference now is that many disappear only for some days and return beaten, terrified and therefore mostly silent.

Political observers claim Kadyrov is ruling over Chechnya independently of Russia. Is it really so? Tens of thousands of Chechens pining away in Russian prisons would not agree. Neither would the hundreds of thousands of war victims, or the relatives of the killed and missing. And the outflow of Chechen refugees to European countries is not subsiding. On the contrary: more and more people are trying to leave. A dictatorship is being cemented in a small European territory.

UN and EU officials compare the situation with the events of 2000, and note indubitable improvements. But what was the reason for destroying so many cities and villages, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and… introducing state terror justified as a “fight against terrorism”? Was it not to crush the society and force it to make an artificial choice between democracy and stability? The Kremlin is satisfied with the current suppression in Chechnya of any attempts to act and think independently.

An extract from a 2,600-word article by Natalya Estemirova on the situation in Chechnya written in August 2008 but never published

Наталья Эстемирова. Фото Новой газеты

Source: Gang members of ‘death squads’ tell about their crimes in Chechnya

The so-called “death squads”, consisted mainly from the Russian Special Forces, participate in the war in Chechnya and in Caucasus.

The murderers were picked on a voluntary basis. They were engaged in killings of relatives of the Mujahideen and those who sympathized with them.

Two Russian “high-ranking officers”, the members of one of the gangs of “death squads”, have told to the British edition of The Times about the “unofficial” methods of struggle with the Mujahideen and with their relatives, as well as the techniques of torture.

According to the newspaper, the murderers presented themselves as “Andrei” and “Vladimir”, not naming their surnames for security reasons. They called themselves “zaichiks (little hares)”.

According to them, the prisoners and the hostages were tortured with a hammer and electricity, the bodies then were either buried in unmarked pits or “pulverized”.

According to the murderers, one artillery shell was placed between the legs of the victim and one over the chest, adding several 200-gram TNT blocks and then the body was blew “to smithereens”.

“The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem”, they explained.

The murderers told that in such a way they had finished off the 40-year-old Chechen who allegedly was a “recruiter of the female Shaheeds”.

Two “recruited” were detained together with her – one was barely 15.

“At first the older one denied everything, then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head”, the murderers tell.

(more…)

An extraordinary documentary, informative and enquiring.

Two Polish film makers travelled in search of why people fight in jihad. This took them to Chechnya, Qatar and Afghanistan. They interviewed the former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (two weeks before he was assassinated), Amir Khattab in the mountains of Chechnya (also subsequently assassinated), Shamil Basaev, and tribal elders of Waziristan, near the Afghan-Pakistan highland border, whose sons are being kidnapped by the Americans.

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Russians Jail Muslim Men for Marrying Russian Islam Converts

Maryam, a Russian convert to Islam, came to Nalchik, the capital of the Russian-occupied Caucasian Muslim state of Kabardino-Balkaria, last month to wed in a festive ceremony that spilled out into the streets with well-wishers shouting “Allahu Akbar” – God is Great, the AP reported.

Now she spends her days mournfully standing in a knot of people outside the regional prosecutor’s office in Nalchik, petitioning for her husband to be released from jail. She says he was abducted by men in camouflage uniforms and masks a week after the wedding; after days of searching, she found he was being held in a prison hospital with a broken arm and three cracked ribs, and was accused of illegal weapons possession.

“I am sure that my husband’s arrest is revenge for our wedding. They even told me in the police station, ‘You deliberately mocked us with your God is Great,'” said the slight 23-year-old from the central Russian city of Ivanovo, her wide eyes and pale face the only things visible from underneath her tightly tied Muslim headdress and robe.

Young men such as Maryam’s husband continue to be jailed in spite of relatives’ protestations of innocence. Rights advocates have accused police of using repressive measures against observant Muslims all over the North Caucasus.

Maryam, an ethnic Russian who adopted a Muslim name when she converted two years ago, said she had been warned against moving to Nalchik but she had brushed off the warnings as exaggerations.

“After what happened to my husband, I understood they were right. It’s dangerous to live here,” she said, asking that her last name not be revealed so her parents would not find out about her troubles.

“But now I definitely won’t go. I will fight for my husband to be freed.”

From the Ingushetiya.Ru site: 

An Officer of the Mobile unit of the Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs: the Lists of Addresses for “Working through” and Liquidation of “Wahhabis” Living at these Addresses Are Issued to Us by the Local Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Lists Are Approved by the Republic’s Islamic Council

Our correspondent has managed to talk with the commander of one of the subunits of the Directorate of Internal Affairs for Kurgan Region. The group of policemen headed by him is attached to the mobile unit of the Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs based in Karabulak. In the words of the officer of the Directorate of Internal Affairs for Kurgan Region, the list of persons suspected of terrorist activity and “Wahhabism” is given to them by the local Ministry of Internal Affairs. In particular, the address of the Galayevs in Sagopshi village was on the list due for “working through” and “liquidation” sent to the mobile unit and signed by the Ingush Republic Minister of Internal Affairs Musa Medov. The operation in Sagopshi was approved by Medov and the latter assured them that the Galayevs were Wahhabis and combatants, that it was desirable to eliminate them on the spot, and not to attempt to take them captive. “At a joint operational meeting with the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Ingushetiya, Medov announced to us that the list was approved by the Islamic Council for Ingushetiya, that it included “Wahhabis” who leave the mosque on Fridays after midday prayers before the others etc.,” the officer of the mobile unit said.

In this manner, many young Muslims have found themselves placed on the “list for execution” compiled by the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Ingushetiya jointly with the Islamic Council for the Republic of Ingushetiya. Their entire guilt lies in the fact that they pray in the wrong way and leave the mosque early, after the ruzban prayer without performing the midday prayer. Whether they are indeed combatants, whether they belong to illegal armed formations is not a question bothering anyone.

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