Chechnya: A context the media does not provide

Russian aggression against Chechnya, a tiny republic of 1.2 million, dates back to 1859 when Russia occupied the predominately Muslim republic after 34 years of armed resistance.

In 1944, Stalin, in an act of ethnic cleansing, ordered the loading of the whole population on cattle trucks expelling them to Siberia and Kazakhstan. One third of the Chechens died. Only in1965 were Chechens allowed to return to their homeland.

Chechens declared independence in October 1991, as other autonomous regions of Russia were doing. The first major Russian attack on the capital Grozny was launched on December 30, 1994.

Russia used overwhelming force, indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian areas. Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 500,000 forced to leave homes. Several villages have been destroyed and Grozny tuned into a ghost city.

The extent of human suffering in Chechnya has remained largely hidden from the outside world. Media attention has been limited by Russia’s blockade on journalists and even aid workers were, and still are, prevented from entering the war-torn republic.

The horrors of the Russian aggression in Chechnya show the ugly face of Russian racism. While Estonia (population over 1 million) was granted full independence, Chechnya was subjected to a brutal genocide and the 6.6 million Tatar Muslims within the Russian Federation were not only denied the right to self-determination, but prevented from returning to their homeland in Crimea.

"Russia is violating all norms of warfare and numerous international conventions by making extensive use of fuel air explosives delivered by aircraft and rockets", said Eric Margolis, the Toronto Sun’s Contributing Foreign Editor (January 9, 2000). These weapons release a fine mist of explosive fuel over a target, then detonate. The resulting blasts are of enormous destructive power second only to tactical nuclear weapons. All of the oxygen under the blast zone’s footprint – the size of a football field – is burned up, sucking the air out of the lungs of victims. Devastating over pressure ruptures internal organs and kills anyone sheltering in basements or bunkers."

"Grozny and most other Chechen towns have been blasted to ruins by fuel air and conventional explosives. The Russians have showered tens of thousands of anti-personnel mines in Chechnya’s mountainous south in an effort to seal the border with Georgia. Foreign journalists are being kept out of the war zone lest they report details of Russia’s latest slaughter of the rebellious Chechens. Almost all news on the conflict comes from Moscow’s propaganda organs, which keep repeating the mantra that Chechens are "Islamic terrorists" – where have we heard this before? – who must be "cleansed."

"The military said Chechen males aged between 10 and 60 would now automatically be treated as rebels and detained for "thorough" checks. Human rights organizations denounced the policy as "absolutely unacceptable"", said Amelia Gentleman in Moscow for UK’s The Guardian (January 12, 2000).

"Chechnya is a place where journalists are killed and murdered (18 so far) and arrested (nine in a recent week alone), people are kidnapped (more than 1,200 to date), innocent aid workers and expatriates are executed. And the greatest evil: the countless deaths and wounding of soldiers and civilians every day", said eyewitness Robert Young Pelton, author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places (March 2000, Harper Collins), and the host of a television adventure travel show by a similar name, as published in UK’s Daily News (January 7, 2000), "I say countless because there is no one to count or verify the casualties. Yes, Chechnya is a dangerous place, but that is exactly why we must pay attention to it, and stop what is going on there."

"There are more than combatants being killed. People who are not fighting a war. People who want to live to play with their grandchildren, who were living peacefully, trying to get by. Until the Russians began methodically destroying their homes and killing the people with rockets, artillery, gas, cluster bombs, napalm, mines, vacuum bombs and Scud missiles with the pretense that they are after terrorists."

The old ugly iron curtain must be lifted within the government of the Russian Federation and Russia’s modernization cannot be achieved at the expense of the legitimate aspiration of other nationalities trapped within its borders. The U.N. , the U.S. , Canada and other Western nations must help the people of both Russia and Chechnyia to achieve a political solution , sooner than later.

Related Content:

– " The Smashing of Chechnya"
by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

– " Torture and rape stalk the streets of Chechnya"
by Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich,6903,820261,00.html

– " Chechnya – human rights under attack"
by Amnesty International

– " Chechnya – human rights under attack"
by Human Rights Watch

– " Endless Brutality:Ongoing Human Rights Violations in Chechnya"
A Report by Physicians for Human Rights