Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 42

The Memorial human rights center wrote an appeal, addressed to the Russian president, prosecutor general, human rights ombudsman, and chairman of the presidential council for the development of institutions of civil society and human rights, demanding that they immediately do everything with their power to end human rights abuses committed by officials of Kabardino-Balkaria’s district administrations and power structures, Kavazky Uzel reported on November 7. “In Kabardino-Balkaria in response to the [October 13] attack by militants, the authorities have staked on massive violations of the Russian Federation constitution, state terror and provoking inter-ethnic conflict,” the Memorial statement read.

The document also said that in the middle of October, the authorities in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Zolsky district organized meetings of residents of several settlements and “work collectives,” and that Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya had provided Memorial with copies of the minutes of five such meetings. According to the human rights group, the agenda of all five meetings were identical: each dealt with the raid on Nalchik and called for deportations in response to the attack. The participants in a meeting held in the village of Etoko, for example, called for the “eviction” from the republic of “everyone who has connections to Wahhabism,” while a meeting of Zolsky postal workers called for the expulsion of “all adherents of Wahabbism with their families” from the village of Zalukokoazhe. The participants in the Etoko meeting also called for the expulsion of all ethnic Chechens from Kabardino-Balkaria, while other meetings called for a ban on providing Kabardino-Balkaria resident permits to “citizens of hotspots,” citizens of other republics generally or persons of “other nationalities.” In addition, a meeting in the village of Zalukokoazhe called for allowing the village mosque to be open just once a week “for conducting Friday prayers for one hour” and for “prohibiting all expressions of Wahhabi trend—that is, the wearing of clothes that are alien to us, beards, the practice of Wahhabi rites.”

In Memorial’s view, these demands do not represent the will of Kabardino-Balkaria’s people, but were initiated by the republic’s authorities. “As a rule, the meetings of the inhabitants of the settlements were presided over by local administration heads, and sitting on the presidium were the head of the district administration, the head of the district internal affairs department (ROVD), the district prosecutor and the head of the Zolsky district branch of the FSB (Federal Security Service),” the group said in its appeal. “The authorities not only gathered the people together, but dictated to them exactly what to demand.”

The Memorial appeal also quoted from an address given by Zolsky district head Khasan Makhotlov in the village of Zalkokoazhe. “We are holding today’s action at the initiative of the administration, although you yourselves should have demanded it [by] assembling in front of the district administration building,” he said. “Why didn’t you say that they don’t have a place among you? Why don’t you express your opinion?… Among the dead terrorists are ten people from our district…At present eight people [from the district] have been officially detained. From their evidence the rest of the participants in the terrorist act will be found. I would like to hear suggestions from the inhabitants of the village about whether we will live with them today. They have such a law that the rest of the members of their families will take revenge for those killed. And they are more than a few. They work in the hospital, gymnasium and other places. Do you want to work with them?…The work collectives must decide whether they will work side by side with members of the terrorists’ families.” According to Memorial, following this speech, the meeting agreed to demand that the work collectives “resolve the issue of the work activity of members of the families of the terrorists who took part in the bandit attack on the city of Nalchik.” The human rights group stated that the heads of the district’s administration, ROVD, FSB and its prosecutor “were not only participants, but organizers of this bachannalia of lawlessness.”

In an earlier statement, issued on October 20, Memorial wrote that the Kabardino-Balkarian and federal authorites have two possible courses of action. “One—the traditional—[is] to rely exclusively on force, police measures, to launch repression in the republic against those suspected of disloyalty, to beat confessions of terrorist activity out of those arrested and detained, to continue the persecution of all alternative Muslims communities,” the statement read. “This path, already tested in certain other republics of the North Caucasus, will lead only to a further escalation of the conflict. The second path demands from the authorities significantly more, above all, intellectual efforts, but it can, from our point of view, halt the conflict’s escalation. On this path, above all, it is necessary to seek an end to crude violations of human rights and the norms of Russian legislation by the law enforcement organs of Kabardino-Balkaria [during] counter-terrorist actions. It is also necessary to end violations of the right of the inhabitants of Kabardino-Balkaria to worship freely. The authorities would do well to enter into a dialogue with representatives of alternative Muslim communities, not to be afraid to start a wide and open public discussion of all issues important to the republic’s inhabitants, including religious issues. The near future will show which path will be taken.”