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Guity Nashat of the University of Illinois at Chicago has abandoned WAISer passivity, roused by the tragedy of Chechnya. She writes:
If the world does not try to stop the Russian onslaught, the Chechens will be wiped off the face of the earth. The Chechnyan population is only 300,000-500,000, and more than 100,000 Russian soldiers are trying to force them into submission. If news reports are to be trusted, Russian politicians and military are willing to fight to the last Chechen to restore credibility with the disgusted Russian people.
The Russians claim they are fighting the good cause, TO STOP the spread of Islamic Fundamentalism. I don't know how far fundamentalism has penetrated into Chechnya, but during the last two centuries diverse peoples in Central Asia and the Caucasus used Islam as a shield to protect their identity. This was not different from what happened in Poland with Catholicism.
For those who may think the Chechens are a group of wild Muslim fundamentalists, let me say that while they are Muslims, they are also one of the oldest inhabitants of the Caucasus, and their language is one of oldest languages of that region. [This describes the Basques too, but that does not justify ETA terrorism.R.H.] Their fights with the Russians began in the eighteenth century, when Russian imperialism began to colonize the region. Throughout the nineteenth century the Russian military tried to break Chechen resistance by periodic campaigns of brutality, such as allowing their soldiers to pillage Chechen villages and rape their women. The Soviets, especially under Stalin, used even greater force to break up the aspiration of the Chechens for independence.
Before Russia began the massive bombardment of Grozny, it is said that 200,000 Chechens--probably half the population-escaped into neighboring countries. The massive exodus is saying that they prefer Islamic Fundamentalism to Russian colonialism. But even if the majority of Chechens prefer fundamentalism, shouldn't they be able to choose that? Doesn't this movement of so many people speak louder than words?
What worries me is that if this ghastly war does not end soon, the harsh Caucasian winter will finish off the rest of those who escaped their homes in the hope of avoiding the invaders. If this carnage continues, there will not be many Chechens left to save when spring comes.
Please let's stop the slaughter of a whole people before it is too late.
My comment: TV reports have brought home to us the destruction of Chechnya and the misery of its people. None of us can fail to be moved. However, for what it is worth, here is a less anti-Russian viewpoint to offset the above Islamic one.
The Russian people have always viewed the Caucasian peoples with suspicion. How justified the charges against them are justified I do not know. In the case of the gypsies, against whom various charges are made, I know from personal experience that many of them are. Whether the Chechens were behind the bombings which killed hundreds of apartment dwellers, I do not know.
People in remote mountain areas are often anti-social, witness Corsica and the Basque provinces. In the Caucasus, the Chechens are an extreme case. None of the other peoples, such as the Ingush, are behaving like the Chechens. If the Chechen government had cooperated with Moscow, especially in tracking down the terrorists, this situation might not have arisen. The story of war is that peoples suffer because their governments refuse to reach an agreement.
Ronald Hilton - 12/14/99