Officially Sanctioned Kidnappings Alienate the Dagestani Public

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 13 Issue: 19

Rally against kidnappings in Dagestan at the Prosecutor's Office (Source: Caucasian Knot)
The news from Dagestan in September was dominated by reports of militant actions, special operations and terror attacks, but the most worrying development has been the occurrence of multiple kidnappings by both security forces and militants. Indeed, kidnappings are the only events that lead people to take to the streets and demand answers from the government (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/207167/). Kidnappings are not new to Dagestan: while initially this phenomenon was relatively rare, it started to become routine in 2007, when the security situation in Dagestan became especially precarious (www.memo.ru/s/87.html). Since then, activists from the human rights organization “Memorial” have noted that kidnappings in Dagestan have acquired a regular pattern. Kidnappings should not be confused with the custom of snatching brides, which is a separate social phenomenon in Dagestan. There were 72 bride-snatching cases reported in Dagestan during the first six months of 2012 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/212185/). To compare, 24 cases of kidnapping were reported to police during the same period. Most of the kidnapped individuals are Salafi Muslims (www.hizb-russia.info/index.php/novosti/245-vlasti-dagestana-sanktsionirovali-miting-protiv-pokhishchenij-lyudej.html). This is evidently not improving the overall climate in the republic.
During the month of September, at least nine people were abducted. On September 4, Magomed Magomedov reported to the police that a resident of Maidanskoe village, Akhmed Magomadov, had disappeared. Tofik Rustamov of the village of Khryug in the Akhtyn district reported to the police that his brother had vanished. According to Rustamov, on September 5, 40-year-old Kamil Rustamov left his house in Khryug at 10 am and never came back. On September 6, a resident of Makhachkala, Aminat Isaeva, reported to the police that her 20-year-old son, Islam Isaev, left home on September 4 at 10:30 pm and never returned. 
There have been numerous cases, in which kidnapped people are subsequently found dead with signs of torture on their bodies (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/206903). The authorities often portray them as militants. Locating a kidnapped person in prison is usually good news for his relatives. However, Sirazhuddin Khasaev, was not so lucky. According to his wife, Zaira Khasaeva, the police took her husband from his workplace on September 2. Khasaev was tortured, and then taken by the police to the hospital, where his relatives were able to track him. According to the doctors, Khasaev had burned fingernails, had been shot in the arm and had bruises on his body (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/212104/). The prosecutor general’s office confirmed that Khasaev was in police custody and that it was the police who had taken him to the hospital on September 3. However, the interior ministry claimed it could not track Khasaev, since there were no documents confirming that the police had retrieved him from the hospital. Yet the official hospital records indicated that Khasaev was returned to police custody (http://kavkasia.net/Russia/2012/1347923224.php). The father of two children Khasaev was apparently considered to be a Salafi. Moreover, he was a former police officer and the security services must have become interested in him as a potential supporter of the militants (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/212116/). On September 5, Khasaev’s relatives and friends staged a public protest in Makhachkala and demanded from the government to find him (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/212193/). Since then, the authorities have made no progress in locating or releasing Khasaev. This is a typical case in present-day Dagestan, where the authorities refuse to admit to obvious facts. 
A reverse case that involved the kidnapping of a police officer by the militants took place on September 13. The case ended relatively well, since several hours later the officer was simply left at the Aktash Bridge in Khasavyurt district and found in sound condition by his colleagues (http://lenta.ru/news/2012/09/14/copnapped/). In this case, members of the resistance movement apparently kidnapped the police officer with the intention of robbing him of his car and gun. Had the kidnapping of the police officer been an act of revenge, or had he been personally targeted, he would not have a chance to survive. 
On September 18, a resident of Makhachkala, Aishat Alieva, asked the police to find her husband. According to Alieva, her 22-year-old husband Uzair Aliev was stopped at a Kizlyar police checkpoint on September 16 while driving to Moscow. In a quick telephone conversation, Aliev managed to convey the message that the police had told him he was the subject of a police alert (http://vdagestan.com/?p=7039). Alieva then lost contact with her husband and has since not been able to establish his whereabouts. 
Also on September 18, Alismat Naftilakh-Ogly Mekhtiev appealed to the district police in the city of Kaspiisk to find his 29-year-old son, Samir Mekhtiev, who left home on the evening of September 11 and never returned (http://kaspiysk.name/v-dagestane-zhitel-kaspiyska-zayavil-ob-ischeznovenii-syna.html). 
On September 22, two residents of Dagestan alerted the police about disappearances. One of the victims, 43-year-old Abdurakhman Abdullaev, vanished in Makhachkala. The other, Zamir Alikuliev, a ninth-grade schoolboy, disappeared in the city of Derbent (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/213027/). Finally, on September 27, a resident of Makhachkala, Zagedin Shiroinbalaev, asked the police to find his 51-year-old brother, Zeledin Shiroinbaev, who left home on the evening of September 26 and did not return. 
Against the backdrop of multiple clashes between government forces and members of the armed resistance, kidnappings in Dagestan are a focal point for the authorities and the public, since by allowing kidnappings to happen, the authorities generate a negative response from the public. The grave security situation in Dagestan is caused not only by the confrontation between the authorities and the armed resistance, but also by the incompetence of the federal and republican authorities. Persecuting people just because they prefer to dress as Arabs or wear long beards pits the government not only against the Salafis, but also against the Sufis, since probably 90 percent of the relatives of Salafi converts are adherents of traditional Sufism. Thus, repressive government actions, especially kidnappings, inadvertently improve relations between the Salafis and the Sufis and unite them against government policies. 
A large protest in the central part of Makhachkala on November 25, 2011 was a visible manifestation of the growing unity among the followers of different Muslim teachings in the republic. This demonstration had a significant impact in the social media. It was the harshest public criticism that the government has faced (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/196521/). Similar protests against kidnappings are likely to occur in the future.