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Monday, August 06, 2007

Annals of "Pacified" Chechnya: Where Are Their Children?

The Washington Post reports more proof of how Vladimir Putin has made the Chechnya region into a peaceful, prosperous part of his country, the perfect place to hold the 2014 Olympic Games:

MAKHACHKALA, Russia. About 50 women occupied a central square in this provincial Russian capital on Friday, declaring a hunger strike and vowing not to leave until authorities tell them what happened to their missing children. Police tried to break up the protest, staged by a group calling itself the Mothers of Dagestan, but the women refused to disband, said Svetlana Isayeva, one of the protesters. She said they will not eat until their demands for information and a meeting with the region's president are met. Police tried to break up the protest because the protesters did not have a permit for the central square, Shamil Guseinov, a senior Dagestani police officer, told The Associated Press. Authorities approved the demonstration for another part of the city, he said.

The president of Dagestan, Mukhu Aliev, admitted last month that 76 people have been kidnapped so far this year in Dagestan. In six of those cases, the abductors wore camouflage uniforms similar to those worn by law enforcement officers. At least 20 young men and women are believed to have been kidnapped by uniform-wearing armed men since April alone, Isayeva said.

Raigonat Shurpaeva, another mother, said her son Malik, 26, failed to return home from work in a car repair shop in December 2004, leaving behind a wife and child. "We'll be here until they tell us whether our children are dead or alive," she said. Some of the missing men attended mosques that are not controlled by government-sanctioned Muslim clergy. The mother's group said authorities have accused some unsanctioned clergy of preaching the fundamentalist Wahhabi strain of Islam. Isayeva said masked men seized her 26-year-old son near the family's apartment in late April, as they rounded up suspected Islamic militants. She has not seen him since.

Authorities, she said, claim not to know what happened to her son, won't investigate and suggest he may have joined a terrorist group. "The Interior Ministry says our children are criminals," she said. "But they fail to prove it." Dagestan, located on the Caspian Sea in Russia's North Caucasus region, has been plagued by shootings, bombings and other violence, some spilling over from neighboring Chechnya and some stemming from local crime.

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