Bigotry Monitor: Volume Two, Number 1

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Subject: Bigotry Monitor: Volume Two, Number 1

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Bigotry Monitor: Volume Two, Number 1

Volume Two, Number 1
Friday, January 4, 2002

A Weekly Human Rights Newsletter on Antisemitism, Xenophobia, and
Religious Persecution in the Former Communist World and Western Europe

(News and Editorial Policy within the sole discretion of the editor)

Published by UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet

States has "made some progress in cutting off" financial and military
support for "foreign terrorists," such as the Jordanian-born fighter
known as Khattab, who operate in Chechnya, U.S. Ambassador to Russia
Alexander Vershbow told "Ekho Moskvy" in an interview on December 28.
(Russian officials have long claimed that Khattab is closely linked
with Osama bin Laden.) But, Vershbow steered clear of the Russian
government line identifying the Chechen struggle for independence as a
bin Laden project. He cautioned that it is important to distinguish
between foreign terrorists like Khattab and rebels who have championed
Chechnya's independence bid. "Clearly those who have chosen to take up
arms against Russian authority can't simply be destroyed by military
means," he said, calling a military solution "a blind alley.'' He
added; "We do continue to have concerns about the human rights
situation inside Chechnya and abuses that have sometimes been carried
out by Russian forces.'' Vershbow also called on the Russian
government to help protect media freedom and voiced concern about a
bankruptcy case against TV6, the country's last major independent
television station. He said that Secretary of State Colin Powell had
raised the issue in his talks in Moscow early last month.

past two months Russian repression in Chechnya has intensified,
according to the December 27, 2001 issue of "Le Monde," one of the
most influential dailies in Europe. Relying on information obtained
from Memorial and other human rights organizations, the newspaper
described the appearance of Russian "death squads" in Chechen villages
as having become as "ordinary" as the helicopters bombing the
mountainous south and the 45,000 Russian soldiers in the republic
pillaging and killing. "The 'searches' are systematic, conducted by
masked men, with dogs on a leash, that we see everywhere," "Le Monde"
quoted Mylene Sauloy, a documentary film-maker, who had just returned
from Grozny. Also quoted was Oleg Orlov, president of Memorial, who
said that during the "searches" over the past two months, Russian
troops carried off televisions sets, mattresses, and pillows, and
demanded money, threatening to take with them local youths. According
to Orlov,
300 people who were rounded up during these raids have been officially
acknowledged as "disappeared," but Memorial believes that the real
figure is "a good deal higher." Orlov called the Russian soldiers
"uncontrollable," not obeying orders from their command, while
"organized gangs made up of representatives of the Russian public
force are engaged in abductions, acts of torture, and assassinations."

Russian leaders ebullient in their praise for the accomplishments of
2001, the government's Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov
dismissed the idea of progress in the human rights sphere, according
to an Interfax report on January 2. He cited "police outrages" as
remaining on the list of human rights violations. "Beatings by
policemen cannot be tolerated," he said. He added that in Russia the
individual citizen acting alone "feels absolutely helpless, should the
police, prosecutors, and the court launch an agreed-upon onslaught on
him. Unfortunately, courts are often manipulated by the police." He
extended his remarks to political rights. "Problems in the defense of
human rights are telling on the observance of the citizens' political
rights, which can be seen from the recent presidential elections in
Yakutia," he said. "Sometimes elections are not elections at all, but
are either an appointment or an attempt to buy a deputy's mandate.
People have become weary of these practices and no longer trust the

Mironov brought up an even more basic complaint. "How can one
seriously talk about human rights if charges for energy and for
traveling by railway will increase by more than 35 per cent this
year?" he asked. "The Russian citizens, many of whom live below the
poverty line, will have to pay more for gas, heating, and electricity.
This is just inadmissible!" He denounced as "a flagrant violation of
human rights the practice of cutting off heat and electricity in the
winter in some of the Russian regions. This is telling on the
citizens' health, and it goes against the constitution which says that
Russia is a socially-oriented state."

In contrast with Mironov's cri de coeur, much of the Russian news
media struck cheery tones in assessing the year 2001. "Trud" went as
far as declaring that "Russia objectively lived the best year in its
modern history."

ten months of 2001, the Voronezh office of the Ministry of Internal
Affairs reported 72 crimes against foreign students in the city, the
local newspaper "Moyo" noted on November 27, 2001. According to the
article, skinheads concentrated their attacks on foreign students from
Africa and Asia, especially right after sport and musical events.
Large groups of skinheads routinely stream out of the local stadium
and head for Voronezh State University to smash the windows of dorms
where foreign students live and to beat those they can find. Skinheads
also distribute neo-Nazi literature sent from Moscow. In the
newspaper's estimate, about 200 skinheads live in Voronezh.

city of Arkhangelsk, an organization called the Democratic Union of
Youth has announced an essay competition to combat discrimination
against people from the Caucasus, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty. The project was prompted by the mass violence that broke out
on October 30 last year at Moscow's Tsaritsyno market, as well by a
skinhead attack several months ago in Arkhangelsk, during which two
Georgians nearly lost their lives. RFE/RL quoted a local anti-racism
activist to the effect that while inter-ethnic tensions are not
particularly high in Arkhangelsk, negative feelings toward people from
the Caucasus exist, partially because of their dominant position in
outdoor markets. Another reason is the widespread perception that they
are more likely to be engaged in criminal behavior than Russians.
However, local crime statistics do not validate this belief.

U.S. Congress approved a provision to ease refugee processing.
Lawmakers recently granted a one-year extension of the Specter
Amendment, which will help facilitate refugee processing of Jews,
evangelical Christians, and other religious minorities in the former
Soviet Union. The Labor, Health and Human Services bill also includes
funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which provides grants
to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and other Jewish social
service agencies for initial resettlement needs of refugees from the
former Soviet Union, Iran, and elsewhere. In 2001, HIAS received
approximately $8 million from the office, specifically for job skills
and placement programs.

Ismakaeva, a Seventh Day Adventist, has been evicted from her
apartment and made homeless, Keston News Service has learned. The
eviction order was issued by the Turkmenabad city court on December 21
on the grounds that an unregistered community of Adventists had been
meeting in Ismakaeva's home. The eviction followed a recent tightening
of the repression of Protestants by Turkmen authorities. For instance,
an elderly blind Baptist was threatened with eviction for hosting a
Baptist service that was raided by the secret police. The raid led to
large fines for some 40 worshipers, the expulsion of three foreign
citizens, and two-week imprisonments for several participants.

* * * QUOTE OF THE WEEK * * * "Russian democracy is still imperfect,"
wrote  London's "Financial Times" in its roundup editorial on the year
2001. "It lacks fully fledged human rights protection, media freedoms,
and the rule of law. Mr. Putin, the ex-KGB man, is not an altruist.
Western support should be matched by healthy skepticism."

Captured Foreigners Who Joined Taliban Now Fear Forcible Repatriation

Those recruited to fight fundamentalist Islam's war against the
infidels have many faces and nationalities, and the case histories
they present to visitors may or may not represent the full truth. Two
seemingly discrete groups stand out in the small sample of the 3,500
Taliban fighters held at Shibarghan prison whom correspondent Carlotta
Gall interviewed for her report in "The New York Times" on January 1.
Members of the first group are fervent in their faith and declare
their readiness "to die a martyr's death in a holy war." A second
group is composed of those who tell foreign journalists -- in this
case an infidel who also happens to be a woman -- that the jihad they
had gone to fight "turned out not to be a holy war, but a battle
against fellow Muslims."

Some of those interviewed claim to have been misled by Taliban
recruiters; others emphasize that they had left their native lands for
Afghanistan to escape persecution for their religious beliefs and to
live in a state under Islamic law. Much like Ukrainian and Latvian
prisoners of war who had fought on the German side during World War
II, the Shibarghan prisoners tend to describe themselves as victims of
circumstances beyond their control, and they minimize the extent of
their participation in the lost war.

The prisoners who present an immediate human rights problem are those
who say that they fear forcible repatriation because they will be
executed in their home countries. They are the prisoners who impressed
correspondent Gall as appearing "most afraid" and "frightened" by the
threats of their Afghan guards telling them that they will be sent
home. Their fears of persecution seem justified, which may enable them
to secure assistance as refugees according to the UN definition.
However bizarre it may appear, their oft-stated intention now is to
seek political asylum from the new Afghan government they had fought.

The prisoners who come from countries of the former Soviet republics
of Central Asia, such as Uzbekistan, now a U.S. ally of convenience,
do not have good prospects of dodging repatriation, though Afghan
officials might allow at least some of them to slip across the border
and return home where the authorities may not know about their Afghan
adventure. If extradited, a particularly grim future awaitsMuslims
from China, where repression of the Muslim minority is severe, state
control is tight, and Muslims are routinely accused of being
"separatists" and "terrorists" and sentenced to long terms in labor
camps. A prisoner willing to give only his first name said that six
months ago he had fled the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, once a
predominantly Muslim-inhabited area, because he wanted to live in
Muslim Afghanistan. He expressed the hope that the new Afghan
government would allow that, as he would never want to go back to
China. "When they captured me, the soldiers said I would be handed
back to China," "The Times" quoted him as saying. "They will shoot me
in China. What can I do?"

A murkier case was presented by a 22-year-old carpenter from Pakistani
Kashmir. He said he had gone to Kabul after hearing on the radio about
the Americans waging war on Islam and bombing Afghanistan. His father
objected, arguing that he would fight Muslims and thus the war did not
qualify as a jihad. But the son disagreed, saying, "But I want to be
martyred. I hope to go to paradise. It is better than life on earth."

However, when asked by "The Times" if he would now consider joining
the jihad in Indian Kashmir, where Muslim militants ambush Indian
forces, he answered in the negative. "Jihad is very difficult there,"
he said.
"You  have to go on foot in the mountains."
* * * *
Copyright (c) 2001. UCSJ.  All rights reserved.

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