Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hostage to Misfortune

Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.):

Hostage-taking still rife in Chechnya

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA - The practice of taking hostage the close relatives of members of armed guerrilla units still continues in Chechnya.

On September 22 representatives of the law-enforcement agencies abducted from a house in the 8th precinct in Grozny's Staropromyslovsky district a young man whose brother left in secret to join the guerrillas several months ago.

"About three months ago, when many of the republic’s residents, mainly young men, set off en masse to worship at the grave of the mother of Kunta-Hadji in Vedensky district (Kunta-Hadji Kishiyev, the founder of one of the Sufi movements in nineteenth century Chechnya, is one of Chechnya’s most revered ustazy, i.e., saints), three lads from our area also left there. But they didn’t return,” says 47-year-old Kheda, one of the residents of Grozny’s 8th precinct. “Then there was a rumour that they’d gone to join the guerrillas. The problems started after that.”

According to the woman, the father of one of the youths (she says that all three are aged between 18 and 19) began to receive “visits” from the members of various law-enforcement agencies. "Alkhazur Seriyev, the father of one of the boys who left, began to get regular visits from the FSB, the police, or whoever they were. They told him he had to find his son and get him back home. One of them even went so far as to call our precinct ‘a nest of Wahhabists’, though no more than a dozen families live there at present,” the woman says.

The law-enforcers simply ignored all of Alkhazur’s attempts to explain that he doesn’t know where his second son is, or how to go about looking for him. "Neither Ruslan (Alkhazur Seriyev’s son) nor the two other lads ever said that they wanted to go and join the guerrillas. Ruslan didn’t ask his father for permission, and the other two never said anything to their mothers about it (their fathers died several years ago at different times). There were no guerrillas in any of those three families, and no one can tell why they acted like this," she says.

The law-enforcers’ repeated visits to Alkhazur Seriyev always came down to one thing – he must immediately find his son and get him back home. "They told him quite openly: "We don’t intend to go chasing your son in the mountains. If we come across him, we will shoot him and kill him at once. Go and look for him yourself, any way and anywhere you want, but get him back home. Otherwise it will be the worse for you," Kheda says.

Through relatives and friends who live in the mountainous part of Southern Chechnya (where the guerrilla units are principally based), Alkhazur Seriyev attempted to make inquiries about his son. But in this he had no success.

Then the law-enforcers resorted to radical measures. At dawn on September 22, several men in camouflage uniform armed with automatic weapons broke into the Seriyevs’ house. Threatening physical violence, they forced Alkhazur Seriyev’s eldest son Ilyas to get into their vehicle and drove away with him in an unknown direction.

"We don’t understand: what does Ilyas have to do with it? His younger brother didn’t tell him about his plans, any more than he told his father. Who gave this kind of authority to the special services, the police and soldiers, to take the relatives of guerrillas hostage, or those who sympathize with them?” the woman says angrily. “After all, even during the Stalin era, in the years of the Second World War, there was the principle of ‘the son does not answer for the father’, and that went for other relatives, too. But there’s only one word for what is going on just now, and that’s terror."

Officials at the Staropromyslovsky district police station where the relatives of the abducted Ilyas Seriyev have filed a complaint say that the local police did not take part in this abduction. They have accepted a complaint from Seriyev’s father about the abduction of his son and have promised to take steps to look for him. At the present time, nothing it is known of his location and further fate.

The practice of taking hostage the relatives of members of armed guerrilla units has been adopted quite widely in Chechnya during the present military campaign on the republic’s territory. Officials of different law-enforcement bodies have at various times taken hostage the relatives of Aslan Maskhadov, President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, as well as those of field commanders Shamil Basayev and Dokka Umarov (the present leader of the Chechen resistance). The former Ichkerian defence minister Magomed Khambiyev (now a member of the Moscow-backed Chechen parliament), "voluntarily" turned himself in to the authorities in March 2004 after law-enforcers seized and abducted about 40 of his relatives and close family.

Meanwhile, the Chechen historian and political analyst Murad Nashkhoyev considers that the practice of hostage-taking has its roots in the distant past. "This vicious practice was introduced by the tsarist generals after Russia began its active advance into the depths of the Caucasus. In those days it was the children of influential families who were taken hostage – they were called amanats. The tsarist administration thought this was the best way to secure the obedience of potential enemies of the regime. So I don’t see anything new in what’s being done now,” he says.

Translated by David McDuff.

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