How the Chechen struggle for Independence changed to radical Islam... PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 16 April 2011 10:07

 

 

 

Chechnya or Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is one of the states locating in the middle of the Caucasus Mountains. Chechnya’s history is mainly about wars after wars against Russian Empire. Chechens did not calm down even during the USSR times when the Russians had the most brutal leader the Russian history ever had named Josef Stalin. Therefore, the early 1990s were the best chances of all for the Chechens to declare of their independence. An American writer Christopher Panico tells the beginning of Chechen struggle clearly: “In autumn 1991, after the collapse of the August putsch in Moscow, the Chechen Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic declared its independence.”[1] On 11 December 1994, after nearly three years of seeming incation, Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered the Russian armed forces to move against Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and depose its leader, President Dzhokhar Dudaev, a former Soviet bomber pilot and air force general. In a brutal war, Chechens almost destroyed the entire army of new-Russia. Christopher states that after fighting broke out, poorly executed and harsh Russian tactics only increased Chechen resistance, evoking memories of earlier repression.[2] The main idea that was following Chechen struggle was the brutal past where the Chechens have even been deported from their lands where about 350,000 of the Chechens died. “On Red Army Day, 23 February 1944, all Chechens were forcibly deported to Central Asia,” says Christopher in his book called “Conflicts in the Caucasus”.[3] Throughout the Russia history, Chechens always have been discriminated almost everywhere in Russia as terrorists even if their struggle was nothing else but freedom and independence for Chechnya (only). After fighting for two/three years, in 1996, Chechen fighters won Russia and Russia recognized Chechen independence. But lately, in 1999, Russian President Putin declared new war on Chechnya which is still going on in Chechnya but seem to carry different measures from the struggle before. If before Chechens have been carrying the notion of independence, today the majority tends to rely on Islam or even radical Islam. In this paper, I will argue that International Community played an important role in the change from the Chechen national struggle to radicalism by playing in silence or being biased; ignoring all types of human rights violations over the Chechen people and by focusing on terrorism globally. Also, by proving my point I will mention the times when the West decided to close its eyes to what was happening in Chechnya, even though, the West was clearly aware that Russian so-called “anti-terrorist operation” was nothing else but genocide. Of course, one would probably call things using neutral terms, but when 250,000 of the Chechen citizens have been kidnapped, tortured, raped, burnt and murdered, it is hard to find any other terms that will represent my idea to play diplomatically. But I will try my best!

First of all, I would like to speak of Russian crimes committed in Chechnya briefly as I can. Physicians for Human Rights wrote a book called “Endless Brutality: War Crimes in Chechnya.” In this book Physicians for Human Rights state: “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ECPT), all bind the Russian Federation.”[4] Unfortunately, none of the European Unions demanded Russia to respect human rights. Moreover, Russia was continuing its crimes and human rights violations over the Chechens. Because of unimaginable brutality of the Russian forces in Chechnya, European Union had to extend Human Rights’ applications. In the same book, Physicians for Human Rights inform that “In 1998 decision, the European Court of Human Rights extended the application of article 2 on the right to life of the ECHR to impose on the governmental authorities a duty to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding killing by the state’s security forces.”[5] The European Union was mentioning of the Chechen issue only when they were obliged to speak of strong human rights violations in Chechnya. Taking this into consideration, “independent sources, such as PHR, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, report that widespread torture continues,”[6] believing this would help the Chechen issue to become on international level for further discussions.

Of course, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was focusing more on international organizations providing them with the information about genocide in Chechnya. Even to prove the Chechens’ will to work closely with international communities, second elected President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Aslan Maskhadov told in his interview that “Chechen Republic of Ichkeria forces express the intention to comply with Geneva Conventions and Protocols.”[7] Of course, an atmosphere of terrifying insecurity for all who live in Chechnya continued even after more declarations of both Chechen and European sides. When Russian government tried to speak of the Chechens who violate Russian civilians’ rights, the European Union answered: “There is no doubt that the conduct of fighters on the Chechen side also violates international humanitarian law. Their leadership, too, should be held accountable. But overwhelmingly it is the Russian military, with its tens of thousands of troops in Chechnya, that is responsible for the grave human rights violations that occur day in and day out.”[8] Here the European leaders meant that the ultimate responsibility remains with President Putin. But none of America or Europe did anything that could of stop human rights violations in Chechnya. And when it was coming to what to do in this case, all European leader plus America remained silence. Nothing else but silence. Mostly, the Russian government decided to ignore anything relating to human rights. Because if they did not decide to ignore, then the presence of international communities in Chechnya could provide Russia with incentive to bring its undisciplined, corrupt, and brutal troops under stricter control.

Therefore, we face another question: is not international law following justice? And if so, then is not when the Russian government attacks civilians in Chechnya – killing innocents without discrimination or accountability, neglecting orphans and refugees – it cannot longer expect aid from international lending institutions or something like that? Unfortunately, the story seems to be way different, especially, for the Chechens.

And, there is no way to blame the government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria for not trying to tight its state structures with international communities so that the international communities may support the Chechens in their war. For the most part, the Chechen government tried hard to become a part of Europe by creating businesses with European states and by supporting every resolution made by EU. For example, Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, in the book called “Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus” say that “In 1992 President Dudaev had ambitious plans to circumvent the Russian economy and do business deals abroad. Even as the economic situation in Chechnya deteriorated, he talked more and more about making the republic a ‘second Kuwait’. Americans expressed nosiness interests in Chechnya despite the objections of Moscow. However, a certain William Anderson III from the American Embassy in Moscow flew down to meet Americans and persuaded them to go home.”[9] But even this did not stop Dzhokhar Dudaev. In the autumn of 1992 he went to America and after marathon all-night discussions, signer a $200 million deal with the Texan company EnForce.[10] EnForce is a company that provides oil equipment in return for crude oil and dollars. And Chechnya is one of the richest by oil states in the Caucasus. Dzhokhar also signed an agreement where America would have to build a huge new oil complex in Grozny to house 200 American workers.[11] Dzhokhar Dudaev also tripped to Britain, France and Germany and succeeded to tie up business relations with these states.[12] If we will re-look at where Mr. Dudaev went, we see that Dzhokhar was vising the major members of European Union which are England, France and Germany. Using the sign of “business” Dzhokhar created at least some sort of connections with foreign states. And then, having the economy on its beginning and selling Chechen oil for the good of the state, the economy boomed in Chechnya and Russia saw this as direct threat to their Federation.

Actually, Chechen booming economy made Moscow to believe that “the death-throes of the Dudaev regime had begun.” Authors Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal write in their book that “In August 1994 Chechnya had turned into a Shakespearean kingdom – armed groups roamed the country at will and there were no fixed borders or front lines.”[13] It was the time when Russian government recognized Dzhokhar Dudaev as illegitimate leader of Chechnya and therefore, did not want to recognize Chechnya’s integrity. And as the authors say, everyone in Chechnya was armed to protect Chechen integrity from the Russians. Brutal intervention of Chechnya had begun.

What about European Union or the United States of America? None of them did a thing to prevent Chechnya from Russian interruption breaking all international laws. Even NATO which was fighting in the Balkans agreed with Russia that Chechnya is internal problem of Russian Federation. Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev mentioned in their book Mapping European security after Kosovo that “NATO declared of no potential challenger to NATO’s hegemony in the region … no threat to NATO member states.”[14] Even though, NATO was fighting in Kosovo for the same reasons as in Chechnya – human security and protection of human rights.

Speaking of Kosovo, Chechnya was even stronger case for the Americans and EU to protect. But as Peter and Sergei tell us: “Things went somewhat different in the case of Chechnya: Russia had lost not only the first Chechen war on the battlefield, but the information war itself. Images of demoralized army, of senseless destruction and the vandalized corpses of Russian soldiers had forced a sharp anti-war turn in the Russian public opinion, finally leading to the cease-fire of Khasavyurt (a Chechen village bordering with Dagestan) in 1996.”[15] I think that this should have been enough for EU and America to intervene the Chechen-Russian war and to declare of cease-fire from both sides until further discussions. In the same period, United Nations Security Council voted for two resolutions 1199 and 1203 to protect rights of Kosovars[16] (to be more correct – Albanians), while the Chechen issue has been ignored once again.
The only difference between American war in Kosovo and Russian war in Chechnya was: America – “we protect human rights” and Russia – “Putin said so”.

Of course, it was obvious that Russia was violating human rights in Chechnya on a large scale for the sake of her so-called “Empire”. However, if we take a look at Chechnya and Kosovo, for the European Union and NATO was more justifiable to assist the Chechens. Principally, for one reason: Since USSR collapsed till Russian invasion (1990-1994) and between first and second wars (1996-1999) Chechnya lived independently for about 7 years while Kosovo did not for even one year. Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev mention this in their book that Russia did not succeed in Chechnya to establish their government while in Kosovo, the Serbian state maintained its presence.[17] The other interesting aspect says that the Chechens could live peacefully than Kosovars: “The amount of inter-group violence was much higher in Kosovo than it was in Chechnya.”[18]

For the most part, Chechnya was ignored by European Union and the U.S. Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal stated it clearly that Chechnya does not mean much for the Western societies. The authors report: “For the West, Chechnya is way down on the list of priorities with Russia and not a reason to destabilize a relationship already made delicate by NATO expansion and the complex internal political situation.”[19] But despite of all ignorance from the international communities, the Chechen resistance was still fighting for the only key – independence. The authors say that “While Moscow repeated the slogan of ‘territorial integrity, Chechnya repeated the slogan of ‘independence’. The issue was really one of freedom and human rights of a long-oppressed people. Using the formulae ‘sovereignty’ or ‘self-determination’, there were plenty of possibilities for constructive compromise.”[20]

Incredibly, the Chechens facing ignorance from the Western societies were able to win first Chechen-Russian war (1994-1996). Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal write that “the Chechens have suffered from worldwide ignorance about their history and who they are. Too often during the war they were simply sidelined in reports on Chechnya, reduced to a mere factor in the political survival. In fact their story is in many ways unique: no one but the Chechens has ever properly tried to claim independence from Moscow.”[21] In first war, Dzhokhar Dudaev did something very much incredible – he made vicious Russian army to fight against all Chechens. And the Chechens in their turn possessed at best several hundred properly trained men at the start of the war. They not only decimated the Russian attackers trying to capture Grozny (the capital of Chechnya) on New Year’s Eve 1994, they delayed the capture of the city for months and lately did something more amazing – to recapture Grozny. As Carlota and Thomas introduce the Chechens as “and – most incredibly – a small Chechen guerilla army that had been dismissed as ‘bandit groups’ brought the Russian army to its knees and forced to withdraw.”[22]

In the second war which started in the end of 1999, the Chechens were left alone completely. The EU and the U.S. went down underground and did not say anything to support the Chechen resistance. And Russia knowing its mistakes in the first Chechen-Russian war came back with much brutal forces. Carlota and Thomas talk about America’s ignorance of the Chechen issue by playing biased games: “the West mostly ignored Chechnya and treated it as an ‘internal matter of Russia’, which was one reason why the war was allowed to go on as long as it did.”[23] And does now.

And just to remind, the war is still going on but with different measures. Right now, the Chechen rebels know if they should or should not believe the so-called “international communities”. The earlier times have shown to us how the Chechen issue was betrayed by both EU and NATO. And the current war in Chechnya represents only violent episodes commit by the Russian Federal forces.

With the second Chechen-Russian war, the Chechen second leader Aslan Maskhadov declared if Russia will not stop their aggression the Chechens will spread war over its borders. The Russian government laughed at his declarations and then, Richard Sakwa in his book PUTIN: Russia choice, says: “at the same time, while military forces were being reduced in Chechnya, they were greatly increased in the North Caucasus as a whole, accompanied by frequent military exercises.”[24] This was about to begin radicalization of the Chechen resistance against Russian invaders.

But still, Aslan Maskhadov in his interview argued – “I’m deeply convinced that Putin is far from reality about what is really going on in Chechnya today”[25] arguing that the security forces were feeding him false information and suggested that everything could be resolved if he and Putin were to meet face-to-face. Citing: “If we are able to open eyes of our opponents, the Russian leaders, peace can be established.”[26] The problem of Chechnya could have been resolved in Chechnya itself. But the Russians assassinated Aslan Maskhadov and closed one option. Then the continuation of the war in Chechnya only increased the Chechen insurgency throughout Northern Caucasus states.

Now, the Chechen resistance has gone too far into radicalism due to Russia’s new policy on ‘Chechenization” of the problem, shortly, to spread the Chechen war among the Chechens themselves. Ulric R. Nichol writes in Focus on Politics and Economics of Russia and Eastern Europe that Chechen rebel forces, estimate by Russian officials to number between 1,200 and 2,000 dedicated fighters in Chechnya. They now mainly engage in small-scale armed attacks and bombings, including suicide bombings, against Russian troops.[27]

Speaking of suicide bombings, it is very much important to understand it or them in proper way. It is not easy to commit suicide. But when we witness how Russian soldiers raped and killed your wife, daughter or mother, I think anyone will think of nothing else but revenge. Cindy D. Nees wrote a book called “Female Terrorism and Militancy”. In this book, Cindy tells us more about women being involved into conflicts. Talking of the Theater in Moscow which was captured by the Chechens, Cindy tells us more about women and how shall we feel about them. Cindy called it by “Chechen women join the fight for independence – and Allah.”[28] After the operation by killing over 250 of hostages Russian forces shot Chechen women in the Theater while they fell asleep. Cindy tells us the real image she saw inside the Theater: “Their dead bodies were shown on worldwide television. Photographs of the women with bombs still attached to their inert torsos were the most dramatic, hear heads leaning back or hanging down, loose-jawed, faces framed by black veils emphasizing their pallor. Four of the women were slumped as if in peaceful sleep on the red velvet seats of the Dubrovka Theater, but they were obviously quite dead. ‘They spoke to us rather nicely,’ several former hostages said, and they behaved ‘as normal women.’ So what would prompt these young women to sacrifice themselves? Most were widows of rebel combatants who had been killed by Russian soldiers. They felt they did not have any more to lose, having already lost a husband, a brother, a father, a son – a life.”[29] There are so many examples to give about radical insurgents who are fighting for Chechnya and our right to be free. But now – without asking for anyone’s assistance due to previous experience where Chechens lost over 250,000 of the people and no one in the World said anything to support Chechen struggle.

To conclude my research, I would like to notice Russia’s crazy politics. Even Ulric criticizes Putin and Russia’s politics by questioning how Putin’s support for Hamas and Iran in the Middle East while he rages against so-called Islamic terrorists in Chechnya? Russia is more than just incoherent or contradictory.[30]

By all reasons I have shown above, I would like to say that this is the way that drove the Chechen struggle to radicalism – ignorance, silence, and being biased in terms of Chechen belief to live free.

Jut additional information to provide Russia’s false politics: Russians decided to elect leader in Chechnya who had be to Russian puppet, of course. And held so-called elections. According to Russian sources the electoral commission reported a very high 103.5% turnout among 569,000 eligible voters.[31] The final question is – how can Chechen civilians come to elect their leader if the majority of the Chechens live abroad Chechnya and if only 10% of the population have TVs and 20% - phones? I think we will never find answers to this question as far as the international community pretends of being blind. How did Russia get 103.5%? Maybe they included cats and dogs from the Chechen territory.
 
 
 
                                              References:
 
-          Panico, Christopher. Conflicts in the Caucasus: Russia’s War in Chechnya. USA: Institute for the study of conflicts,
1995.
-          Physicians for Human Rights. Endless Brutality: War Crimes in Chechnya. Boston: Library of Congress Catalog, 2001.
-          Gall, Carlota and de Waal, Thomas. CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus. New York and London: New York University Press, 1998.
-          van Ham, Peter and Medvedev, Sergei. Mapping European security after Kosovo Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2002.
-          Sakwa, Richard. PUTIN: Russia’s choice. London and New York Press, 2008.
-          D. Nees, Cindy. Female Terrorism and Militancy. London and New York Press, 2007.
R. Nichol, Ulric. Focus on Politics and Economics of Russia and Eastern Europe. Ne

__________________________________


[1] Christopher Panico, Conflicts in the Caucasus: Russia’s War in Chechnya (Institute for the study of conflicts 1995) 1
 
[2] Christopher Panico, Conflicts in the Caucasus: Russia’s War in Chechnya (Institute for the study of conflicts 1995) 1
 
[3] Christopher Panico, Conflicts in the Caucasus: Russia’s War in Chechnya (Institute for the study of conflicts 1995) 3
 
[4] Physicians for Human Rights, Endless Brutality: War Crimes in Chechnya (Boston: Library of Congress Catalog 2001) 107
 
[5] Physicians for Human Rights, Endless Brutality: War Crimes in Chechnya (Boston: Library of Congress Catalog 2001) 108
 
[6] Physicians for Human Rights, Endless Brutality: War Crimes in Chechnya (Boston: Library of Congress Catalog 2001)  109
 
[7] Physicians for Human Rights, Endless Brutality: War Crimes in Chechnya (Boston: Library of Congress Catalog 2001)  110
 
[8] Physicians for Human Rights, Endless Brutality: War Crimes in Chechnya (Boston: Library of Congress Catalog 2001)  115
 
[9] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998)132
 
[10] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 133
 
[11] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 133
 
[12] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 133
 
[13] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 136
 
[14] Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev, Mapping European security after Kosovo (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press 2002) 189
 
[15] Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev, Mapping European security after Kosovo (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press 2002) 190
 
[16] Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev, Mapping European security after Kosovo (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press 2002) 191
 
[17] Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev, Mapping European security after Kosovo (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press 2002) 186
 
[18] Peter van Ham and Sergei Medvedev, Mapping European security after Kosovo (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press 2002) 184
 
[19] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 371
 
[20] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 370
 
[21] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 8
 
[22] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 1
 
[23] Carlota Gall and Thomas de Waal, CHECHNYA: Calamity in the Caucasus (New York and London: New York University Press 1998) 13
 
[24] Richard Sakwa, PUTIN: Russia’s choice (London and New York Press 2008) 239
 
[25] Richard Sakwa, PUTIN: Russia’s choice (London and New York Press 2008) 237
 
[26] Richard Sakwa, PUTIN: Russia’s choice (London and New York Press 2008) 237
 
[27]Ulric R. Nichol, Focus on Politics and Economics of Russia and Eastern Europe (New York: Nova Science Publishers 2007) 83
 
[28] Cindy D. Nees, Female Terrorism and Militancy (London and New York Press 2007) 122
 
[29] Cindy D. Nees, Female Terrorism and Militancy (London and New York Press 2007) 123-124
 
[30] Ulric R. Nichol, Focus on Politics and Economics of Russia and Eastern Europe (New York: Nova Science Publishers 2007) 28
 
[31] Ulric R. Nichol, Focus on Politics and Economics of Russia and Eastern Europe (New York: Nova Science Publishers 2007) 86

 

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