Chechen Officials Punish Relatives of Rebels

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 38

Kavkazky Uzel reported on October 8 that inhabitants of the mountainous Vedeno district in southern Chechnya had announced a boycott of the families of members of “illegal armed formations.” The website reported, however, that while the local authorities claimed the boycott was initiated by the local inhabitants themselves at a meeting, many Vedeno district residents they did not know when or where such a meeting took place.

According to the website, the boycott means that families whose children are in the ranks of the rebels will no longer receive assistance from their fellow villagers. Among other things, they will not be permitted to participate in village gatherings and meetings or to receive meat from community ritual sacrifices or help from fellow villagers in carrying out agricultural work.

“It is not my idea or demand; it is the demand of the public of the Vedeno district,” said Vedeno district head Shamil Magomaev. “I only voiced the decision of the district gathering of citizens. As the participants in the gathering at which these issues were discussed said, the relatives of members of illegal armed formations will incur public censure. In their opinion, considering the mentality of the Chechens, this will become an effective measure in counteracting the ideology of terrorism.”

According to Kavkazky Uzel, many Vedeno district residents knew nothing about the meeting at which the decision to boycott the families of rebel fighters putatively took place. “I didn’t know that we had a district gathering at which a decision was taken not to give aid to families of militants,” said district resident Alkhazur Bisultanov. “I, of course, do not approve of the fact that young people are going into the woods [to join the rebels], but to punish their parents for the actions of foolish children is also, in my opinion, not completely correct. … Jobs need to be created; as many children as possible must be sent off to study, including outside the republic, so that they can see normal life, so that they have some sort of future prospects. But pressure on relatives is not a method.”

Still, inhabitants of the town of Vedeno were quoted as saying that on October 6 there was a meeting between local residents and officials of the district administration military commandant’s office, during which the issue of young people going off the join the rebels was discussed. At that meeting, Shamil Magomaev called on the parents of young people who have joined the rebels to convince their children to return home and to stop the outflow of youth to the rebels.

According to Kavkazky Uzel, local authorities in Chechnya are increasingly using the concept of “collective responsibility” to try to stem the flow of youth into the rebels’ ranks. Indeed, New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers wrote in an article published on September 29 that in “a campaign to punish families with sons suspected of supporting the insurgency, at least a dozen homes have been set ablaze since midsummer.” Chivers cited the case of a Shali resident, Valentina Basargina, whose home was burned out by raiders in camouflage, one of whom told her “in thickly accented Russian” just before torching the house: “This is for the one who is gone.” Chivers noted that Basargina’s nephew had recently disappeared and that police had said he joined the insurgency. A spokesman for Kadyrov told the New York Times that the Chechen government knew nothing about the burnings.

Citing residents and a local human rights organization, Chivers reported that the burnings have been accompanied by a program, “embraced” Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, “that has forced visibly frightened parents of insurgents to appear on television and beg their sons to return home.” According to Chivers, in a series of state-run news programs in the republic this summer, senior Chechen government officials spoke about the collective responsibility of people whose relatives have joined the insurgency and of “collective punishment.” On one such broadcast, Kadyrov himself reportedly said: “The families whose relatives are in the forests, they are accomplices in the crime.” Chivers also reported that Grozny Mayor Muslim Khuchiev, a confidant of Kadyrov, stated on one such broadcast: “We are not now holding dialogue with you on the basis of the laws of this state. We will act according to Chechen traditions.” Khuchiev added: “The evil which is done by your relatives in the forest will return to you and your homes. Each of you soon will feel it on your skin.” on October 8 reported that local authorities in Gudermes and Argun had several weeks earlier demanded that the relatives of militants leave their homes and move out of the cities. The website also reported that law-enforcement officers in the Shatoi district had burned the home of a young man who had recently gone into the mountains to join the rebels. A Shatoi district police official was quoted as saying that the home of the family of a militant had been burned by police as revenge for the burning of the home of one of their colleagues by rebels.