Monday, October 30, 2006

Chechens Receive Death Threats

Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.)
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Chechens in Astrakhanskaya Oblast receive death threats

By Ruslan Isayev

YANDYKI, Russia – Ethnic Chechens living in the village of Yandyki in the Limansky district of the South Russian province of Astrakhanskaya Oblast, where just over a year ago inter-ethnic riots took place, are still suffering from pressure on the part of local nationalists.

Almost every day the places where Chechens live are subjected to the throwing of stones, bottles and notes containing threats that if they do not leave the district and the Oblast they may expect to be killed.

The authorities do nothing, claiming they are unable to establish the identity of the authors of these notes, but most of the Chechens tend to the view that they are quite simply turning a blind eye to the problem. Because of all this the Chechens, the majority of whom were born and grew up in Yandyki, are living in a virtual state of siege. “They can’t just drop everything and leave, since nearly all of them earn their livelihoods from sheep, cows and horses”, says Leyla Abdulazizova, one of the residents.

The situation in Yandyki became particularly inflamed after events in Karelia’s Kondopoga. Chechens could not go out into the street without encountering jeers and threats by their Russian and Kalmyk neighbours. “It’s not that they refuse to greet us, but rather that we feel something terrible may happen against us. We seek protection from the authorities, but they don’t give us any. We feel a hostile attitude around us,” says Leyla.

It may be useful to recall how these events began. It all happened along the usual lines. In mid-August 2005 an everyday dispute between Chechens and Kalmyks provoked riots and anti-Chechen pogroms in this village. On August 18 almost all the young people and adults armed themselves with baseball bats and pieces of steel gridding and fencing and then marched through the village, beating Chechen men and women within an inch of their lives. Six houses in which Chechens lived were set on fire. As a result they were left more or less homeless, robbed at a single stroke of all they had accumulated and acquired over long years.

It all ended in the much-trumpeted trials of twelve Chechens who were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, while two Kalmyks accused of arson were given short sentences.

Yandyki’s Chechen residents appealed to various official bodies, demanding that the damage inflicted on them in the course of the pogroms be acknowledged and compensated for. They even appealed to President Putin in an open letter, demanding to know once and for all whether they were citizens of Russia like the representatives of other ethnic groups, with all the responsibilities and rights that entailed. If the answer was yes, they asked for compensation, and for a guarantee of safety so they could continue to live in the Oblast. But there has been no reaction.

It should be noted that this is not the first anti-Chechen pogrom in the Limansky district of Astrakhanskaya Oblast. Before the outbreak of the first Chechen war in 1993, on Fisherman’s Day, a holiday that is usually accompanied by the consumption of enormous quantities of alcohol, the residents of one of the villages set fire to several houses and beat up many Chechens. The incident was later investigated and those responsible were punished after the intervention of the oblast authorities and sharp statements by Ichkerian President Dzhokhar Dudayev, with threats to stop deliveries of oil and fuel to the district.

Translated by David McDuff.
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