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Double-Standards: It's permissible in Chechnya

It's permissible in Chechnya

[This is not my own translation - however I am sending it to my translation list because of my difficulties of tracking down an English language copy. It would be otherwise an easy item to miss - Sol Salbe]

[The 'moral case for the war on Iraq being pushed by the Tony Blairs and Pamela Bones of the world sounds really hollow when one remembers the case of Chechnya. [For those of your outside Melbourne Australia Ms Bone is a liberal journalist with an otherwise good record on human rights issues who still supports the war].

While removing Saddam the west is giving full backing to Putin's murder, torture and rape in Chechnya. The proportion of those killed makes it one of the clearest cut cases of genocide since the Holocaust. To quote Zukayev's example of another dictator: "So, while the statistics of atrocities in Chechnya have beaten all records in Bosnia and Kosovo, Slobodan Milosevic sits in the dock in the Hague while Putin attends the G-8 summit."

This article was published in the International Herald Tribune. It's a typical indictment of the world media that it was not reprinted elsewhere (not even by the two co-owners of the IHT!) I saw it in Haaretz which reprinted it in Hebrew. (The IHT comes out as a supplement to the English print edition in Israel.)

I am indebted to Israeli (right-wing) academic Tuvia Blumenthal for tracking down the original. His comment: "After hearing about the atrocities in Sudan, here is a description of what is going on in Chechnya. Just to remind you, the occupiers there are Russians, those who often criticise Israel for its war against terrorism." Two wrongs don't make a right but in a rare agreement with him I share his objection to Putin's hypocrisy.

For what's it's worth Haaretz had a more powerful headline, something like "It's permissible in Chechnya" .SS]

[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is generously sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]

Chechnya: We are not your enemy in the war on terror By Akhmed Zakayev (IHT) Saturday, June 19, 2004

LONDON: I am perhaps one of the few who was not really impressed by the photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison. For I come from the part of the world where humiliation, torture, rape and murder in the name of the war on terror is a daily routine while exposure, apology and punishment of the perpetrators is an unattainable dream.

The Russian war in Chechnya has left 180,000 civilians dead, 17 percent of the population and twice as many homeless. Thousands of innocent people kidnapped by Russian soldiers disappeared without a trace. Some were ransomed to their families, alive and dead. Some were found in mass graves, disfigured by horrible torture. A human rights group recently published the confession of a Russian officer who took part in more than 50 secret executions.

Before Sept. 11, the West viewed Chechnya as a massive violation of human rights and condemned Russia for suppression of free speech and democracy. Then, democratically inclined Chechens - and Russians - felt the moral backing of the West and reciprocated with gratitude and respect. The Chechen problem was taken for what it was: a result of the disintegration of the Soviet empire that could be solved through negotiations.

But on Sept. 11, President Vladimir Putin pledged Russia's support to President George W. Bush; in return, Chechnya was declared a part of the global war on terror. So, while the statistics of atrocities in Chechnya have beaten all records in Bosnia and Kosovo, Slobodan Milosevic sits in the dock in the Hague while Putin attends the G-8 summit.

What, then, can we, the last democratically elected Chechen government, tell our people? That the United States deems us ineligible for life and liberty? That we have been sacrificed for the sake of strategic partnership with Russia? That the Russians have a license to kill us as long as Osama bin Laden remains at large?

How can anyone then be surprised that our youth - a brother whose sister was raped, a son whose father was tortured to death - do not heed our sermons of moderation, and join the ranks of desperate suicide avengers?

After Sept. 11, Chechnya ceased being a post-Soviet phenomenon and became an issue between the West and the Islamic world. We did not seek this role, it was bestowed on us by the West's policies.

Today a prayer for Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya is offered in a single breath in every mosque in the world. Bush apologized for Abu Ghraib and said he will work to revive the Middle East "road map." Does that mean that he has given a thought to what is happening in the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Muslims? If so, I would very much like to hear him apologize for an ally who is "doing evil" while hiding behind America's cause.

I would like the U.S. president to say to the Muslims: The slaughter of your kin in Chechnya is not what we mean by democracy. The killings, the torture, the humiliation are not part of the war on terror. The wish of a small people to live in freedom and dignity is not punishable by death.

Then, possibly, the world will make a first small step back from the total clash of civilizations toward which Bush's double standards and empty rhetoric are pushing the human race.

Akhmed Zakayev, a deputy prime minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, received political asylum in Britain.

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