Saturday, April 27, 2013

Extremism and Human Rights

A number of sources have commented on the negative effect the Boston Marathon bombings may have had on the image and public perception of the North Caucasus region and Chechnya. Some observers have focused on the extremist politics that have been woven into Islam by radical Muslims, a worldwide phenomenon, and one that is destructive of religion itself.

The extremist politics have also had a destructive effect on human rights activities in Russia. When I first started to work as a translator with a fairly well-known website that monitored human rights abuses in the North Caucasus, both the Russian-language and English-language comments on articles on the site were very few and far between - in fact there often weren't any at all. But after a few years, in the early part of 2009, the Russian-language comments became extremely busy - and they nearly all appeared to come from former residents of the North Caucasus who had emigrated to the West and had either obtained asylum there or were in the process of seeking it. Many of the comments they posted were indicative of a particular mind-cast: hateful and intolerant of Western social conditions and Western values, with an anti-American slant that was accompanied by an anti-Semitism that masked itself as "criticism" of Israeli policy in the Middle East.

The website's original function as an observer and monitor of the human rights situation in Chechnya and southern Russia became obscured, and in place of the previous news reports and informed analysis many of the articles that were published formed part of a polemical and political debate about the North Caucasus insurgency and the role of Islamic extremism in its developing profile. The site became the object of vicious attacks from sites like Kavkaz Center, and finally in 2010 it ceased to operate altogether, though its content has been preserved and is still accessible.