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Chechnya and the Situation of Politics - By Lara Romsdal

Chechnya and the Situation of Politics

-Is this really our only future?-
By Lara Romsdal 16.4.17

Today we learnt of Chechnya’s instigation of a concentration camp aimed at focusing known deviants (Homosexuals amongst others) into submission via forced containment. This, supposedly arising out of a predominantly Muslim-oriented country.

Here we face several layers to unpack:
Firstly, the instigation of a concentration camp. Secondly, the use of such a camp for known or suspected Homosexuals (‘deviants’) and thirdly, the Muslim orientation of the country by-and-large.

Ordinarily, these elements may be viewed in different attitudes with respect to a known context. For instance, concentration camps during times of war, Homosexuality in a Western perspective of sexuality and of Islam in a wider religious or spiritual understanding. These are each unique and relatively standard understandings of each issue. What we are beginning to face here may in fact run far deeper than most have previously realised.

The act of a concentration camp by Chechnya is not unique. Serving the British in the Boer Wars (19th Century) we see the creation of the camps. These were then given activation by New Zealand, not alone in the tarred brush of responsibility. It is through this that we see the evolution of Prisoners of War continuing into the First and eventual Second World Wars, in horrifying results. This is not to be confused as a ‘death camp’, that is foremost to be removed from this concept and should be seen as very different actions by a nation. What do these camps generally mean however? In standard practice, the camps work to hold a group(s) in certain circumstances which generally result in arduous sentences, often in lifelong confinement. People die in these camps, at least historically in World War Two, due to the conditions of the camp itself- not in its design (arguably the lifelong sentences are a cause of the death, if prematurely). To consider this we can then start to identify the connections to the displacement of Homosexuals.

Historically, discrimination has driven an understanding of hostility into the unknown. This is common amongst many cultures, even today, and through this uncertainty towards tradition and practice we see a culture of fear or intolerance towards individuals and groups who stand away from the norm- indeed, an ‘Othering’ has been positioned and in this case, to Queers. For Chechnya, Homosexuals represent this difference of the mainstream. Is this a result of Russian aggression against anti-state sentiments? Possibly. The politics surrounding Russia’s actions in the last decade towards Queer communities in Russia is mire in a long-standing grapple for power and dominance. Historically, Queer individuals are held to be under an expression of freedom that has been translated into a moral crime- very independent from Western perspectives held today. This is increasingly gaining rhetoric amongst the examples shown by American lobbyists. The opportunity to let civil liberties fall on the wayside has never had a greater ‘crack in the door’ during a period of liberal changes. Normally, these positive changes would not have occurred in previous governments.

In light of this political environment, where civil liberties are being constantly called into question, this leaves the question of religious understanding. What complicates these decisions to enact a concentration camp is the use of Islam as an authority in matters of morality. This is not to suggest that Islam is a cause for oppression- quire the opposite- it is instead informing a system already in place that can be used as a vehicle to mobilise anti-Queer sentiments amongst other marginalised groups. Muslim-oriented Chechyna is not moving as a religious institution per se, but again, is carrying sentiment in a pre-exisiting system that enables certain ideas and issues to be bought to the fore in the minds of Chechyans and the government in an attempt to corral control. This is seen across nations in various policies to keep themselves in order amongst the masses. What we are seeing here is the use of these anti-Queer sentiments as fuel to enact a controlling discrimination that is already in existent to be used as a catalyst for further control by the government. It is tied into existing notions and nuances that are brought together through an Islamic system of governance- and therefore, not the religious beliefs itself as direct instigator. Something which is unfortunately overlooked across many other instances of radical actionable events (Isis for instance).

What really is the trigger point in this event, is the re-shaping of political identity across a nation that is similarly close to Russia and other nation states in ideas. What we could forecast is the banding together of pre-existing fears and understanding, that if set in motion appropriately by other political events such as the collapse of the EU (hypothetically), we may see the rescinding of civil liberties across this and more marginalised groups. It is this scenario of the EU collapse that enables nations such as Russia to impede the rights of citizens and enact large-scale takeovers of strategic regions held previously in its history. This ultimately would spell disaster for many communities, individuals and identities. Politically and ideologically, this relates to power which can in turn, mobilise efforts to ensure an image of the state is given greater controlling force that can and will lead to greater global conflict. We have just seen this turn into a realistic scenario with the launching of missiles into Syria by President Trump in the hours of yesterday. This has real consequences in the way politics and liberties are dealt with; considered and renegotiated by contemporary governments far beyond the act of aggression against other nations. In fact, these are all inter-related in motive and meaning, to be used in ways that limit or inhibit personal freedoms. This is something central to every nation, and citizen, in this modern global context.

It is far too easy to equate concentration camps; ardent misgivings towards Homosexuality (as an example of discrimination), and religious fervour with the previous global conflict of World War Two. However, as we have seen demonstrated, we must step back and really consider the issues more widely and to prepare ourselves for changes made in the names of several governments or indeed, faith-based practices. As an international community we must band together and prevent violence; harm and obsolete ways of dealing with these issues in a timely and appropriate manner. Failing to do so may impede upon further civil liberties and actions which can undermine the most innocent participant of our seemingly ‘global’ community. This is a time for openness; responsibility and cohesion against a tirade of rationalised fears. Chechnya today represents one of many decisions that can have severe impact in the ways that we as free-agents live in our world today.

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