Sunday, September 19, 2004

Desperate, Devout, or Deceived?

A comprehensive and thorough report on Chechnya’s Suicide Bombers: Desperate, Devout, or Deceived? by John Reuter, published by the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, concludes among other things that

Like pounding mercury with a hammer, top-heavy use of massive military force to counter Islamic terrorism only seems to generate more varied and insidious forms of terrorism and broaden support... Fareed Zakaria makes an apt comparison of the Turkish Kurd suicide attacks in the late 1990s and Chechen suicide terrorism. After being subjected to a devastating wave of suicide bombings in the 1990s, Turkey began to see fewer and fewer suicide bombings until they almost completely subsided. As Zakaria points out, this result was achieved by a systematic ‘hearts and minds’ campaign in which Turkey “worked very hard to win over the Kurds, creating stable governing structures for them, befriending them and putting forward social welfare programs…On a per capita basis, it has invested more in the Kurdish region than any other part of Turkey.” Zakaria notes the scorched earth policy of the Russian government in the first and second war, and concludes:

"There are many differences between the Kurds and the Chechens. But both are Muslim populations that have political grievances. In one case, the grievances and tactics grew more extreme and violent, culminating in suicide bombing. In the other, suicide bombing gave way to political negotiations and even coexistence."

There is a lesson here. If Russian leaders truly want to understand the source of suicide terrorism, then perhaps they should take a closer look at the human catastrophe they have wrought in Chechnya. Russia must recognize that ‘counter terrorism’ strategies, which employ abduction, torture, and lawless killing, can only create more terrorists. And if Russia wants to prevent another wave of suicide bombings, then it would be well served to seek peaceful reconciliation by constructively engaging those moderate voices that still exist in Chechnya.

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