"All humans are members of the same body Created from one essence"

"Human beings are members of a whole in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain."

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Chechnya Conflict

For much of the past decade, Russia has been embroiled in a military campaign in the southern region of Chechnya. An autonomous, largely Muslim enclave of more than one million people, Chechnya declared its independence from Russia in 1991, in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse.

Tensions between Chechnya and Russia have existed for centuries: from Muslim uprisings against Russian power in the 19th century to the purges of Chechnya's population by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the 1940s, the two sides have a long history of conflict and violence.

On the Russian side, the military has been accused of the abduction, torture and murder of Chechen civilians. A particular tactic that watchdogs have targeted is Russia's zachistki, or "cleansing" campaigns, in which Russian troops descend on a village and perform a "sweep" to root out militants in hiding. Such operations have allegedly led to looting, kidnapping and other crimes.

On the other side, Chechens have been charged with employing tactics such as laying mines, assassinating officials, kidnapping, taking hostages and using civilians as human shields.

The U.S. criticized the Russian campaign in Chechnya. Citing reports by international observers of massive human rights violations against the Chechen people, the U.S. government pushed Russia to seek a political solution to end the conflict.

The Russian military has been accused of a wide range of crimes and abuses: torture, rape, looting, executions, extortion and abductions, among others. Even as those crimes have been documented by the international press and human rights organizations, few cases have been pursued in the Russian courts or aired in the national media.
"The process by which young Chechen men are being abducted and murdered...is on a huge scale in a world context," says Aaron Rhodes, the executive director of the International Helsinki Foundation, a human rights group.

Furthermore, Chechen officials maintain their denials of links to international terrorism. "We resolutely reject terror as a method for achieving any goals," says Maskhadov.

"The Chechens are not Al Qaeda, and Putin must not be allowed to pretend they are. The only way to redeem the suffering of the victims of terror is by working for negotiations that will bring about peace," argues the Nation, a liberal magazine, in an unsigned editorial.

In late October 2002, a group of some 50 armed Chechen militants stormed a Moscow theater and held more than 750 people hostage, bringing a new turn to the conflict. The militants threatened to kill hostages and set off explosives unless Russia withdrew its forces from Chechnya. The Russian government refused to meet the demands. On the fourth day of the siege, Russian forces stormed the theater, killing most of the militants as well as some 120 hostages.

Observers agree that both sides have committed their share of atrocities.

As Russia gears up for an escalation of its offensive, it seems that the protracted conflict in Chechnya is destined to continue at least into the near future.


Bamforth, Richard. "Chechnya Conflict Deepens with New Russian Drive." Reuters (November 3, 2002) [accessed November 6, 2002]: <www.reuters.com>.

"Chechen Guerrillas Seize Moscow Theater: Russian Troops Use Gas in Deadly Rescue Raid." Facts On File World News Digest (October 31, 2002)

"Full Text of Interview with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov." Institute for War and Peace Reporting (June 2002) [accessed October 29, 2002]: <www.iwpr.net>.

Judd, Frank. "Chechnya Needs Politics, Not More Russian Troops." The Guardian (October 28, 2002) [accessed October 29, 2002]: <www.guardian.co.uk>.

"The Lost Cause of the Caucasus." The Economist (November 2, 2002)

Myers, Steven Lee. "Russia Recasts Bog in Caucasus as War on Terror." New York Times (October 5, 2002): A1.

Myers, Steven Lee. "Russia's View of Chechnya Clashes with Reality." New York Times (October 10, 2002)

Steele, Jonathan. "Terror, Torture, Death: The Russians Are Here." The Guardian (July 18, 2002) [accessed October 29, 2002]: <www.guardian.co.uk>.

"Terror in Moscow." The Nation (October 31, 2002) [accessed October 31, 2002]: <www.thenation.com>.

"Chechnya Conflict." Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 14 Dec. 2006. Web. 17 Aug. 2010

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