Thursday, July 13, 2006

Basayev: Divided Views

A Prague Watchdog report by Ruslan Isayev (my translation):

Views of Grozny residents on Basayev’s death almost equally divided

GROZNY, Chechnya – No matter what the separatists’ representatives maintain, Basayev’s death is a serious blow to the resistance movement. It is possible that this loss is equivalent to the loss of all those commanders who have been killed in different situations over a period of the last one and a half years. And it is a loss from which the guerrillas will not quickly recover. Basayev was the uniting core around which the so-called Caucasian armed underground grew, and it is possible that after his death there will be some changes in the strategy and tactics of the way the struggle is conducted.

There is no doubt that the struggle will be continued. Knowing this, the Russian special services will increase the pace of their counter-terrorist operations, in the belief that they have achieved a success which has at long last put paid to Russia’s most dangerous enemy. That the danger is indeed still there is confirmed by the fact that on Tuesday counter-terrorist exercises began in the North Caucasus. The zone of the exercises will encompass several republics and regions. During the week the troops and special services will wage war on imaginary terrorists in Volgograd Oblast, Stavropol Region, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and Ingushetia.

For the present, no one is even able to predict how events in the North Caucasus will develop. Many political analysts forecast a worsening of a situation that is already complex enough. There are also not a few who consider that the resistance movement’s morale is now broken.

The views of Chechnya’s inhabitants, who have experienced and are experiencing the results of the confrontation between federals and guerrillas, can be said to be almost equally divided. It is possible that those who believe that the guerrilla movement is now broken are slightly more numerous than those who are certain that the war is not over. This proportion is probably caused by the depression that is felt about Basayev’s death. Shamil Basayev was a human version of Chechnya: limping on both legs, patient, lonely, devoted and cursed, but not broken, though he knew his fate in advance. These are the kinds of views that can be heard in Grozny just now:

Taus Altemirov, official in one of the ministries, 35: Basayev’s death will of course radically change the situation in the whole of the North Caucasus and Russia. The guerrillas will no longer be able to wage war effectively. I think that the number of shoot-outs, attacks and explosions will be sharply reduced. I personally welcome Basayev’s death, even though I consider myself a believing Muslim, and it’s not nice to talk like that even about the death of a bad Muslim. I’m sure that everyone will be better off because of this.

Anzor Galayev, unemployed, 22: I don’t know whether Basayev’s death will make things better or worse. He himself was looking for death, and he’s surely glad about this in the next world. I’m pleased that he didn’t fall into the hands of the Russians, and that he didn’t have to stand trial. He lived like a soldier and died like a real soldier. There’s no room for pacifists in Chechnya. The Russians pick the pacifists off at once. In order to survive in present-day Chechnya, you must have many armed friends and always wear a wolf’s grin. I think he was a real man.

Mansur Idrisov, teacher in a Grozny secondary school, 50: In a hundred years’ time all the politicians and military leaders will be assessed. This will also happen in relation to what Basayev did. Yes, he took people hostage. But haven’t the Russian troops done that, too? And what were they doing at the police station in Grozny's Oktyabrsky district? Right now it’s pointless either to blame or to praise Basayev. He had no option but to wage war against Russia in this way. Russia by its action forced men such as him to take extreme measures. Time will put everything in its place. Do you remember how history dealt with Pavlik Morozov, and the other "heroes"? Those who are now called terrorists may be officially recognized as heroes, while today's leaders call them traitors.

Malika Khamzalatova, secondary school teacher, Grozny, 30: Those who want to wage war should not have done it by sheltering behind women and children. When Basayev started to do that, the people turned away from him. He had no support at all. All the men who were left up there in the mountains should have come down from there, surrendered, and helped Ramzan Kadyrov to build a peaceful Chechnya.

Anonymous minibus driver, about 20: For some reason I don’t believe that Basayev was killed. He’s not such a fool as to let himself just get blown up like that. Why didn’t they show his body, or what was left of it? And why didn’t they say right away that it was him who’d been killed? If he’s really dead, then I’m sincerely sorry. He was a real leader, and I know how his peers felt about him. They were very proud of Shamil and admired him for his courage and rejoiced in the Russians’ every failure. I would also add that I’m sure the guerrillas are broken, but that they’ll go on fighting. I admire them, though I wasn’t brave enough go and wage war myself. Many Chechens think that way.

Ayshat Gabuyeva, stall-holder at the market in Grozny, 48: They say that Basayev’s been killed. It doesn’t make me feel one way or the other. He was asking for it. Why did he have to go and seize a school, a hospital, a theatre? He will answer before the Almighty for all that. They were right to kill him. There’s been enough fighting. They must go home, to their children, to their wives. They’re waiting for them. If they have no pity on themselves, then at least let them have pity on their wives and children. I mean, they’re tormenting them as well. Why must Chechens always go leaping out ahead of everyone else, when other nationalities stay at home and lead a normal life? There must be something wrong with our minds. Or do we think we’re better than others? I don’t think we are. I think we’re worse than others.

Supyan Abdulkadyrov, police official, 34: I just feel sorry for this man, as one human being for another. But he was bound to end up like this. He’s guilty of many crimes which were committed in Russia and the North Caucasus. It would have been better, of course, if he had been caught and put on trial. But they didn’t want him alive. He could have told the court a great many things about who gave the green light for the whole North Caucasus, who were the people in the police and the other law enforcement agencies who helped to arrange the terrorist acts, who sold the weapons. I am certain that very serious forces in Russia itself were mixed up in it, and that meant that he couldn’t be caught. And if he hadn’t blown himself up accidentally, he would have gone on irking people.

Iliskhan Azimov, unemployed, 44: This came as a shock to me. I always felt that while Basayev was there the Russians would somehow reach a settlement with Chechnya. But now it seems to me that things will get worse and worse. A person who defends his home is called a bandit, and a person who fights for his faith is called a fanatic. Shamil was a true Chechen, and I have no words except these: May All Mighty Allah accept his Gazavat!


Translated by David McDuff.
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