Abductions in Chechnya appear to be declining reports RFE/RL. The total number of recorded adductions of civilians declined “from 544 in 2002 to 323 in 2005, 187 in 2006, and 16 for the first three months of this year.” These numbers were corroborated by the Russian human rights group Memorial which monitors Chechnya. Pervious data suggests that from 1999 to 2005 some 3,000 to 5,000 persons were abducted.
However, along with this decline is a shift in who is doing the adducting. Before most abductions were carried out by Chechen militants. Now “Russian and Chechen human rights activists say that at least three agencies have resorted to such abductions: the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian federal forces, and the various pro-Moscow Chechen police and security forces.” Partisan terror has become state terror.
Also important to point out is abductions have increased in neighboring Dagestan.
At a press conference in Moscow on June 15, members of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) cited data for southern Russia as a whole, and for Daghestan. That data showed 68 reported abductions in Daghestan in 2006, compared with 12 in North Ossetia, 10 in Ingushetia, and five each in Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria, kavkaz-uzel.ru reported on June 18.
By contrast, there have been nearly 20 abductions in Daghestan “over a very short period” this year, according to MHG chair Lyudmila Alekseeva. Meanwhile, in Ingushetia, which unlike Chechnya has not been the scene of constant fighting in recent years, abductions of young men appear to have begun in 2002, the year that former FSB General Murat Zyazikov succeeded Ruslan Aushev as president.
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By Sean — 3 years ago
I don’t normally hype the translations I’ve been doing on side for Meduza’s English portal. I feel I don’t need to promote everything.
But I wanted to draw readers to this recent translation I did of Katerina Gordeeva’s article “The business of breathing How Vladimir Putin tried and failed to help Russia’s sickest children” on terminally ill children and how their parents can’t visit them in ICU and Russian charities’ struggle to provide families with respirators so they can have their kids at home. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I have a 5 year-old daughter the thought of being in a situation like this truly frightens me. I really feel for these children and their parents. I just can’t imagine what it’s like for them. I just can’t.
It was really emotionally hard for me to translate this article. But it’s something I’m honored Meduza asked me to do. More non-Russian readers interested in the country need to be aware of these issues, issues many, many Russians with family members in ICU must deal with. I wasn’t until I started reading this incredible journalism.
Here are the opening paragraphs:
For the first three hours, Lydia (a pseudonym) sat on a chair staring at a crack between the tiles on the opposite wall. Then she started to gasp. Suddenly all the unshed tears for her sick daughter flowed and it was impossible to hold them back. Lydia’s legs turned to rubber bands, and she could no longer get up. She no longer had the strength to go find a doctor, and look him in the eye and ask him to let her into the intensive care unit for at least a minute.
She thought to herself, “If they let me in, I’ll find a way to stay.”
Technically speaking, there were 100 feet between Lydia and her daughter Nastya (a pseudonym). Lydia sat in the hallway, and Nastya was lying in intensive care. This was at a children’s hospital in a Moscow suburb. It was the weekend, and the doctor on duty said he couldn’t authorize Lydia’s access to her own daughter. And he refused to call the head doctor and bother him on his day off.
Lydia returned home around nighttime. She took her brother’s hunting rifle and wrapped it in rags. She got into a taxi and drove to the hospital. With the rifle at her hip, she advanced in the direction of the intensive care unit.
At this point, everything became a blur: Lydia screams, someone wrings her arms, someone else calls the police, doctors and nurses are running around, and there’s the smell of ammonia. And from somewhere above, the voice of the doctor on duty rings out: “Do what you want! She’s dead! She’s dead! She’s gone!”
By Sean — 13 years ago
Though the recent cloudy and rainy days signal the end of summer, its official end comes with the sudden appearance of children on the streets of Moscow. These bright young faces, dressed to the hilt for their first day of school are also a grim reminder. September 1-3 marks one year since the Beslan Massacre.
On the morning of September 1, 2004 Chechen terrorists took hostage Beslan School No. 1 in the small town of Beslan in North Ossetia. The hostage takers demanded the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. For three days 1,200 adults and children were held hostage as Russia and the world watched. On September 3 all hell broke loose. When a FSB sniper shot one of the terrorists who had a bomb, thus setting it off, Russian forces stormed the school. It was then that the details get murky. Overwhelming force was unleashed on the school, including helicopter gunship fire and even a tank. Some claim that terrorists began shooting hostages held in the school gym. Others claim that FSB agents indiscriminately fired rounds into the school, killing many hostages. As chaos broke out, parents, themselves armed, ran toward the school to save their children. Teachers and children fled out of it. When the smoked cleared 330 hostages were killed, including 186 children. 918 hostages were rescued. Quickly dubbed, 9/1 following America’s 9/11, the Beslan massacre sent shock waves across the Russian body politic. Blame for the deaths was and continues to fall on both Shamil Basayev, the Chechen warlord who organized the act, to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for failing to prevent it.
Beslan has become symbolic of many things over the last year. It is a reminder of Russia’s brutal and seemingly never ending war in Chechnya. It is a symbol of Russia’s weakness, even while Putin has created an image of decisive and authoritarian strength. It has drawn Russia further, whether rhetorically or in actuality, into the “global” war against terrorism and Islamic extremism. Beslan, along with the terrorist raid on the Nord-Ost Theater in October 2002, killing 129; the February 2004 Moscow subway bombings, which killed 39; another metro bombing at Rizhskaya in October 2004, which killed 10; and blowing up of two passenger planes in August 2004, killing 89, has become a symbol of Russia’s inability to provide security against terrorism. In a recent poll, 65% of Russians polled believe that the authorities cannot protect them against terrorist attacks. Many Russians are still looking for answers of how this tragedy happened, who is to blame, and what can be done to prevent another. This search for the “whys” of Beslan, answers to which might provide not only psychological comfort to the victims’ families, but also to the nation, has been dubbed by some the “Belsan Syndrome.”
The so-called “Beslan Syndrome” goes beyond Beslan itself. How can one forget how Putin used the massacre to scrap the election of governors for their appointment by the Kremlin? Officials claim plans for the ditching regional elections were in the works for months. Beslan, however, provided the perfect political opportunity to unfurl them. Beslan also caused no reevaluation of the Chechen War. Moscow’s doctrine of overwhelming force continues unabated. It trudges further down the rabbit hole. Any hope of a political solution died with the killing of moderate Chechen separatist Aslan Maskhadov. Now the nationalist-Islamist Shamil Baseyev is now the de facto leader of Chechen independence. The conflict has moved to the border of Dagestan and bombings are becoming more common in Ingushetia. A year after Beslan, the Chechen War threatens to engulf that region.
The town of Beslan remains sorely divided between those who lost love ones and those who didn’t. Suspicion informs how each side deals with the other. The scores of official delegations, visitors, and journalists heading to the southern town have only increased the stress. Most of all, residents cannot understand how their own neighbors aided the terrorists. One man is on trial for allowing the terrorists into the town for a bribe of 500 rubles ($20). Many are blaming the school’s director for hiring maintenance workers who turned out to be the terrorists.
Thousands have showed up at the school to morn. Thirty women from the Beslan Mother’s Committee began a three day hunger strike and spent the night in the school to commemorate the incident. Forty others slept in the local cemetery where the victims are buried. According the one report in the Moscow Times, the tensions between citizens are high:
“[Zoya] Gadiyeva said her 38-year-old son died of heart attack just five months after the attack because he could not handle the stress.
“Why didn’t you do anything to protect them?” she berated the police.
“I will cry everyday until I reach you over there,” she said, turning to the pictures of her daughter and granddaughter.
Nearby, an old woman in black sang a song in Ossetian. “You all died and still the authorities are hiding the truth from us,” the woman sang, according to a translator. “Tell me, my dears, where should we go for the truth?”
A policeman told her to be quiet, and she retorted in Russian: “You haven’t lost anyone. You should have protected my children, but you failed, and now you are trying to shut me up?”
A group of screaming women tried to stop the principal of School No. 1, Lidia Tsaliyeva, from entering the gym. One woman ran up and tried to hit her on the head, connecting only lightly before police carried her away.
Some men then approached her. “How dare she come here today,” one man yelled.
“She is responsible for the death of our children. She betrayed us,” screamed Batras Tsalago as she tried to get near Tsaliyeva.
Police officers quickly surrounded Tsaliyeva and escorted her away.”
The politics of Beslan also continues in Moscow. Putin met with three members of the Beslan Mothers’ Committee. Many of the mothers blame Putin himself for the tragedy and they vow to make their views clear. “I will say that we think President Putin is to blame for what happened. As for what else I will say, well I am unpredictable and I can’t tell the exact words I will use but it will be serious,” says Susanna Dudiyeva, whose 12-year-old son Zaurbek was killed in the incident. The meeting however is being hailed in the media as a “precedent” for all of Russia. Putin is known to steer clear of any meetings with angry voters.
It is hard to not see this move by Putin as pure political calculation, rather than a genuine concern for the views of the Mothers’ Committee. During the meeting, Putin promised to punish those who “blundered” and a full and open investigation. What else could he say? His statements were so predictable they sound trite. His words, however, did their job. The Mothers seemed satisfied, though cautious.
There is a struggle between the State and society over the memory of Beslan. There is attempt by the Russian State to incorporate 9/1, like 9/11 in the United States, into its own narrative. Nothing shows this more than the black posters with “??? ????” (No Words) that appeared inside metro cars a week ago. At first I thought these were done by the Mothers’ Committee because the posters announce a meeting in solidarity with the victims of Beslan. It was only yesterday did I find out that Nashi, the pro-Putin youth group, were the source of the posters and sponsors for the meeting. Nashi has erected a large stage down the street from Red Square and plan to hold their “meeting” on Saturday. Yesterday, Nashi activists, dressed in black windbreakers with “??? ????” written across them could be seen in the city’s center.
There is a poem on the Nashi website that is telling of how the memory of Belsan is being turned. How the general grief of the public is being consolidated into that of the State. The poem reads:
We are one country. One people.
The murdered us.
The subhumans want us to be afraid of them.
When we sleep in our homes,
When we go in the metro,
When we rest,
When we take our children to school.
This will not happen. One year ago—3 September—Beslan.
There are no words that can describe this tragedy.
There are no words able to voice all the pain and sorrow
For those who will never walk the earth.
That who did this will be eternally damned.
They will only be remembered
Everything will be done so that this won’t be repeated.
A meeting of silence at the monument for the victims of Beslan.
It says that there are “no words.” However, between the lines of remembrance is a deafening silence that calls for revenge; a statement of absolute victimhood that produces a silence that covers up the context of their murder. Nashi is wrong. There are words. One word really. A word denied in this poem, and thus silenced from memory. That word is Chechnya.
By Sean — 10 years ago
In the last few weeks, Georgia has sprung back into the news. Protesters are calling for Saakashvili to resign as more and more people have become disillusioned with the six year old Rose Revolution. Russia is threatening to pull out of a NATO meeting to protest military training exercises outside of Tbilisi, while some are speculating that Russia’s own military exercises near South Ossetia might signal that it’s ready to occupy the Caucasian country if political tensions escalate or if they’re provoked.
Georgian officials are claiming to have prevented one possible provocation this past week when they stopped 20 Nashi activists from “provoking incidents” at the Georgian-South Ossetian demarcation line. The Georgian MVD detained Aleksander Kuznetsov, a Nashi commissar who claimed during his recorded interrogation that he was seeking to get to Tbilisi to hold a Nashi action to support of the opposition. Keznetsov’s detention has infuriated Russian officials. Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said of Kuznetskov’s detention sparked “another feeling – disgust with the methods of Georgian security services – unwittingly adds to the founded indignation. It seems they were ordered to obtain ‘proof of Russian interference in Georgian affairs’ at any cost.”
Such is a day in the life of Russian-Georgian relations.
Lost in the mix are the so-called “internally displaced persons,” or IDPs, the rather cold term applied people driven from their homes when the standoff between Russia and Georgia turned hot last August. However, it’s not easy to become recognized as an IDP and receive the benefits that status confers. There is an estimated 26,000 displaced residents of Tskhinvali, many of which are of mixed Ossetian and Georgian families, who according to Paul Rimple at Eurasianet.org, are “hanging in bureaucratic limbo within Georgia.” They are in limbo because they lack the documentation to verify their residence required to register as IDPs with Georgia’s Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation. Once registered as an IDP, a refugee is entitled to a small stipend ($13-16 a month), resettlement in housing with a piece of land, medical benefits and schools supplies for their children.
Nor can these refugees return to Tskhinvali to get the necessary papers. Movement between the “Demarcation line” is difficult and dangerous. Plus,there is no guarantee that the documents still exist. Many people left their identity papers in their destroyed houses. As one refugee named Nona Hubulova told Rimple, “All my documents, everything was in my house. All I have is my Soviet birth certificate, which was miraculously in Tbilisi, but that is not enough to get me my IDP status.” The only refugees that have been able to register were those from Georgian occupied South Ossetia. Village authorities managed to take many documents with them as they evacuated to Georgia.
While the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation promises to have a decision by mid-May, and assures that all these people will eventually receive IDP status, the fact that one’s identity must be proven raises the centrality of biopolitics to being recognized as a refugee. As if being displaced, driven from your home, or fleeing ethnic violence isn’t enough, refugees must prove themselves as victims of inhumanity by supplying biopolitical proof of their humanity. Without birth certificates, passports, and other forms of identity documents–all documents recognized, generated, and issued by a state, it is as if these people have no rights, and barely the right to exist. As Ilita Dudayeva told Rimple: “They say they’ll know more in a month, but I don’t know if I’ll be alive in a month. In a way, our humanity begins, and to a large extent ends, with how our condition is categorized, processed and filed, i.e. codified in the law of a distant and faceless bureaucracy.
Where are the human rights in that?