IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 47: excerpts


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Subject: IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 47: excerpts

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IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 47: excerpts


WELCOME TO IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, NO. 47, September 1,
2000
 
ARREST OF OPPOSITION EDITOR SPARKS OUTRAGE IN BAKU  
Yeni Musavat's Rauf Arifoglu declares a hunger strike after the
authorities charge him with taking part in a plane hijack. Shahin
Rzaev reports from Baku
 
THE FORGOTTEN REFUGEES  
Why the victims of North Ossetia's four-day war remain trapped in
purgatory. Erik Batuev reports from Maiskoe, North Ossetia
 
STATE TARGETS BALKARIA'S ISLAMIC COMMUNITY  
Moscow continues to regard Kabardino-Balkaria as a potential
breeding-ground for Islamic extremists. Maya Bitokova reports from
Nalchik
 

********** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: www.iwpr.net **************
 
.........................

THE FORGOTTEN REFUGEES
 
Why the victims of North Ossetia's four-day war remain trapped in
purgatory
 
By Erik Batuev in Maiskoe, North Ossetia
 
The 7,000 Ingush families marooned in Maiskoe's makeshift shanty-town
have been living in limbo for the past eight years. They are the
forgotten refugees of the North Caucasus wars, their plight
overshadowed by the bitter deadlock in Chechnya and the sprawling
refugee archipelago to the east. Hope - like the other necessities of
life - is in short supply.
 
The Ingush refugees are the victims of the four-day North Ossetian
conflict which flared up in the autumn of 1992 and claimed an
estimated 500 lives. The families were driven from their homes in the
Prigorodny region by ethnic Ossetians who disputed a Moscow edict
giving the Ingush the right to settle there.
 
Any refugees attempting to return to Prigorodny in recent years have
been subjected to vicious attacks from local residents whilst the
Kremlin has stubbornly refused to intercede. Consequently, they remain
trapped in Maiskoe - the last Ingush enclave in North Ossetia - or
just across the border in Ingushetia.

Their enforced exile is unthinkably bleak. Most of the refugees have
made homes for themselves in abandoned railway carriages on the
outskirts of the settlement. The electricity supply is irregular and
gas is non-existent. Others live in a flimsy tent-town, huddled under
dilapidated electricity pylons.
 
Starved of the media spotlight, the Ingush refugees receive nothing
from the international aid organisations which distribute food and
clothing amongst the 250,000 Chechen refugees currently living in
Nazran.
 
Earlier this month, the Ingush president, Ruslan Aushev, asked the
Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, to introduce direct presidential rule
in North Ossetia and enable the displaced Ingush to return to
Prigorodny. Putin, however, has entrusted General Victor Kazantsev,
the new governor of the Southern Federal Okrug, with the task of
defusing the situation.
 
"Neither Ingushetia nor North Ossetia needs us," said one refugee.
 
Some of the Ingush families have attempted to return to their homes,
even without guarantees of security. But buses have been mobbed by
stone-throwing crowds and newly rebuilt homes have been burnt down or
destroyed by bomb attacks.

The conflict between the Ossetians and their Ingush neighbours has its
roots in recent history. In 1944, Ingush families living in the
Prigorodny region were accused of collaborating with the Nazis and
summarily deported to Kazakhstan.
 
The Ingush were rehabilitated by Nikita Khrushchev in 1957 and given
permission to return to their homes. Forty per cent of Ingushetian
territory was subsequently transferred to North Ossetia.
 
However, the Ossetian authorities in Vladikavkaz introduced a welter
of red tape, preventing many Ingush from reclaiming their homes and it
was not until the spring of 1992 that the Russian Duma passed a law
guaranteeing the Ingush territorial rehabilitation.

However, fierce fighting broke out on the night of October 31, 1992,
and a state of emergency existed in North Ossetia until February 1995.
The combatants included volunteers from South Ossetia - then a
mutinous republic of the new Georgian state - eager to fight alongside
their ethnic kin.
 
According to some observers, Russia saw the war in North Ossetia as a
convenient means of provoking armed conflict with neighbouring
Chechnya. On the eve of the fighting, the then minister of emergency
situations, Sergei Shoigu, handed over 57 armoured vehicles and 300
automatic rifles to the Ossetian forces. "To guard the water utilities
and wells," Shoigu later explained to the Moscow Prosecutor's Office.
 
However, analysts have since speculated that Moscow expected the
Chechen president to enter the war on the side of the Ingush fighters
and give the Russians an excuse to invade a republic which was already
displaying breakaway tendencies.
 
However, the Chechen leader took a neutral stance and consequently the
fighting was short-lived. Over 35,000 Ingush residents were forced to
leave their homes which were promptly occupied by South Ossetians.
With South Ossetia itself in a state of conflict with Georgia, these
settlers have shown few signs of wanting to leave.
 
Before the war, 28 North Ossetian settlements were inhabited by Ingush
families but refugees have returned to just three - villages which
have always had an exclusively Ingush population. Here, too, life is
hard. The Ingush find it almost impossible to get jobs and are
subjected to regular document checks at Ossetian police posts. Until
recently, they were forced to seek medical aid across the border in
Ingushetia as Ossetian hospitals refused to treat them.
 
And the unresolved conflict continues to poison the community at
large. One Ingush resident told me the following anecdote to
illustrate the impossibility of his existence.
 
An Ossetian family, the story went, discovered that one of their cows
was missing and suspicion naturally fell on their Ingush neighbour.
 
In order to prove his innocence, the Ingush went in search of the cow
and found her in a nearby wood, in the throes of giving birth. The man
helped to deliver the calf and led both animals back to the Ossetian's
farmstead.
 
The Ossetians took in the cow and her calf without a word of thanks,
terrified that their neighbours had seen the Ingush entering their
gates. Only later did the Ossetian farmer approach his neighbour's
home, secretly through the kitchen garden, and offer him a basket of
vegetables.
 
"They could kill me for this," he told the astonished Ingush. Such
tales give a disturbing insight into apparently unbridgeable rift
which has opened up between the two ethnic groups.
 
Erik Batuev is a regular contributor to IWPR
 

STATE TARGETS BALKARIA'S ISLAMIC COMMUNITY
 
Moscow continues to regard Kabardino-Balkaria as a potential
breeding-ground for Islamic extremists

By Maya Bitokova in Nalchik
 
State-controlled media in Kabardino-Balkaria has launched a wave of
anti-Islamic propaganda in a renewed bid to exorcise the spectre of
fundamentalism in the North Caucasus.
 
The campaign boasts few subtleties. Television news programmes
broadcast scenes from Muslim ceremonies, featuring plenty of animal
sacrifices and bloody knives but little in the way of commentary.

The scenes are followed by footage of Russian soldiers in Chechnya
being executed by Islamic extremists - the notorious Wahhabis who have
become synonymous with terrorism and organised crime across the former
Soviet Union.
 
Routine reports from Kabardino-Balkaria are littered with apparently
harmless observations: "On the central street of the city, shops are
busy selling Islamic wares such as rosaries and books with excerpts
from the Koran..." The political sub-text is barely concealed.
 
Islam has never been widely propagandised in the Kabardino-Balkarian
republic but, now, in the wake of the military campaign in Chechnya,
it is coming firmly under the spotlight.
 
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, changing attitudes to
religion went hand in hand with the rebirth of a "national
consciousness". Faith helped to fill the spiritual vacuum left by the
breakdown of the socialist system.
 
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the local authorities made no
attempt to discourage religious worship and even appeared to patronise
the Islamic faith. Plans to build mosques and open educational centres
in the North Caucasian republic were spearheaded by religious leaders
acting with the apparent approval of the authorities.

In reality, however, the local and central governments missed no
opportunity to torpedo religious initiatives in Kabardino-Balkaria.
The scheme to build a mosque in the capital, Nalchik, is a good
example.
 
In 1992, a radio and television fundraising initiative was launched to
collect funds for the ambitious construction project. It became a
matter of honour for every family and village to donate money to the
mosque - not least because the names of those who had made a
contribution were screened daily on television, together with the
exact sum they had donated.
 
The target was reached in a few days, to widespread excitement, and
the entire nation waited eagerly for the first stone to be laid. They
waited in vain. The money simply disappeared - some said into the
pockets of corrupt officials, others claimed it had been deposited in
a foreign bank which later went bust.
 
Whatever the case, the mosque has never been built and no official
explanation has been forthcoming.
 
The Islamic Institute in Nalchik is the latest victim of official
pressure. Opened in the early 1990s, the institute was set up to
instruct would-be effendis and forge links with Muslim states abroad.
 
Over the past eight years, 500 graduates have left the institute, with
25 being sent to Egypt and Saudi Arabia for further training.
Recently, the institute was renovated and teachers were invited from
Turkey, Syria and Jordan.
 
Earlier this month, however, the authorities announced that the
Islamic Institute would be closed down because it was operating
without a licence. Again there was no further explanation, again there
was no warning. The closure was announced as a fait accompli.
 
And, in the face of these open attacks, the people of
Kabardino-Balkaria have remained silent. Since the demise of the Adyge
Khase, the only real opposition party in the republic, there has been
no platform for protest and certainly no individuals willing to
champion the cause of the underdog.
 
There is a sense that the population at large is entirely at the mercy
of the Moscow government and its representatives in Nalchik, President
Valery Kokov's regime.
 
Kabardino-Balkaria has been dubbed a "potential trouble-maker" and a
breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism - and therefore strenuous
measures are being taken to discredit the Muslim faith as a whole.
 
Maya Bitokova is a radio and TV journalist in Nalchik,
Kabardino-Balkaria
 

********** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: www.iwpr.net **************
 
IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service provides the regional and
international community with unique insiders' perspective on the
Caucasus. Using our network of local journalists, the service
publishes objective news and analysis from across the region upon a
weekly basis.
 
The service forms part of IWPR's Caucasus Project based in Tbilisi and
London which supports local media development while encouraging better
local and international understanding of a conflicted yet emerging
region.
 
IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service is supported by the UK National
Lottery Charities Board. The service is currently available on the Web
in English and will shortly be available in Russian. All IWPR's
reporting services including Balkan Crisis Reports and Tribunal Update
are available free of charge via e-mail subscription or direct from
the Web.
 
The institute will be launching a fourth news service, IWPR Central
Asia Reports, in the coming months. To subscribe to any of our
existing or forthcoming news services, e-mail IWPR Programmes Officer
Duncan Furey at duncan@iwpr.net.
 
For further details on this project and other information services and
media programmes, visit IWPR's Website: <www.iwpr.net>.
 
Editor-in-chief: Anthony Borden. Managing Editor: Yigal Chazan;
Assistant Editor: Alan Davis. Commissioning Editors: Giorgi Topouria
in Tbilisi, Shahin Rzayev in Baku, Mark Grigorian in Yerevan, Michael
Randall and Saule Mukhametrakhimova in London. Editorial Assistance:
Felix Corley and Heather Milner. To comment on this service, contact
IWPR's Programme Director: Alan Davis alan@iwpr.net
 
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based
independent non-profit organisation supporting regional media and
democratic change.
 
Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, United
Kingdom.Tel: (44 171) 713 7130; Fax: (44 171) 713 7140. E-mail:
info@iwpr.net; Web: www.iwpr.net
 
The opinions expressed in IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service are those
of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the
publication or of IWPR.
 
Copyright (c) IWPR 2000

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