Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ten Years after Nalchik, ‘Nowhere in the North Caucasus has the Problem of Terrorism been Resolved,’ Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 14 – Ten years ago, a clash between radicals and the authorities in Nalchik claimed 141 lives, but massive repression has not solved the problems that gave rise to terrorism but rather led to “a significant outflow of potential and real militants to the Middle East” from which they may return, according to Oleg Orlov of Memorial.

            And that is all the more likely because the causes which led to Nalchik a decade ago remain in place, the authorities having done little to correct the situation and much to make it worse. Repression has reduced the level of violence, but it has also made the population more hostile, he says (

            Other experts surveyed by Kavkazskiy Uzel on this sad anniversary concur.  Orkhan Dzhemal, a journalist who covered the Nalchik violence, says that after the events, “a significant group of people unified on a religious and ideological basis was repressed,” but history suggests that repression does little to change minds and that “such things always return.”

            “No one ever forgets anything,” he continues, and the most frightening thing is that now this conflict has been transferred from one generation to another.

            Valery Khatzhukov, the head of the Kabardino-Balkar Regional Human Rights Center, agrees. He says that the worst outcome of the Nalchik events was the destruction of the national organizations which could have been the link between the population and the authorities. No there are no such links beyond brutal force.

            Had such groups not been destroyed, there could have been a dialogue and many of the problems resolved. Instead, each side talked only among its members and did not talk to the other, with the authorities presenting themselves as victors over Islamist forces and the people as victims of the authorities, he continues. They became and remain “an underground.”

            Khatazhukov says that he does not expect a repetition of 2005, “but all the same the underground exists, periodically leaders are destroyed but all returns in a circle: the same problems – social, economic, and political – remain” and continue to affect the views of young people and the entire society. Consequently, further outbursts of violence are likely.

            Larisa Dorogova, a lawyer, says that the siloviki have not changed their approach over the last decade. They “do not recognize violations of the rights of believers and therefore nothing changes, everything continues as before … The underground is a result of various causes: some join because they were beaten, others because their relatives or friend who were killed.”

            She says that today far more people are sympathetic to those condemned for the Nalchik violence than was the case earlier, at least in part because many innocent people were charged and convicted. People in Kabardino-Balkaria feel that they are not being treated fairly or according to the law.

            More than a thousand of them have signed an online petition on calling on the Russian government to “stop” the authorities from using illegal force and to “return the North Caucasus to the legal field.”  And many people in the region now condemn counter-terrorist operations because of the abuses they entail.

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