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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Help AI End Cowardly Violence by Russian Soldiers Against Chechen Women

Reader of La Russophobe already know how brutal Russian men are within their own families, killing one of their wives every forty minutes. Thus, readers can easily imagine how these men behave with foreign women when they are abroad. But they needn't imagine, because Amnesty International documents it excrutiating chapter and horrifying verse:

Since the 1999, the conflict in Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation has been characterized by systematic human rights violations by both sides. Russian federal forces have conducted killing, "disappearances" and torture. Chechen armed groups have conducted indiscriminate attacks on civilians, hostage-taking, and attacks on municipal targets.

Large scale military operations have ceased but human rights abuses continue to be widespread. Thousands of people have "disappeared" many after being detained by Russian federal and Chechen forces during raids at night.

Russian and Chechen authorities have in most cases failed to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into allegations of human rights violations against the civilian population in Chechnya. Women do not have enough confidence in the authorities to bring complaints of rape and sexual violence, and the perpetrators are not brought to justice. In this climate of impunity, women are effectively denied access to justice or to reparations.

After women were involved in the Moscow theater hostage taking in 2002 and in subsequent bomb attacks, Chechen women whose relatives were killed in the armed conflict have been profiled in the Russian media as potential suicide bombers. They have also been increasingly targeted by the security forces and subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and "disappearance".

In defiance of the risks, women in Chechnya have led protests against arbitrary detentions, "disappearances" and other abuses. Following raids and arrests, women gather in front of police stations or at street barricades to demand release of detainees. Public pressure must be brought to bear the authorities to ensure that women obtain access to justice and reparations.


Among the Chechen women who spoke to Amnesty International about their mistreatment were "Madina," "Aset," and the mothers of Aminat Dugaeva and Kurbika Zinabdieva.

"Madina": Madina (not her real name) is 24 years old. In April 2004 she was detained by Russian Federal forces and taken, blindfolded, to the main Russian military base in Khankala, Chechnya. She was tortured dailiy with electric shocks, the wires connected to her bra. She was stripped, threatened with rape and repeatedly beaten. After two weeks she was told a mistake had been made and was released.

"Aset": Russian federal forces detained Aset (not a her real name) at a checkpoint in June 2003 and accused her of wanting to be a suicide bomber. According to relatives, she was chained to a bed and gang-raped every night, and was unable to stand or walk when released six days later. Aset has four children. Her husband was reportedly killed at their home by Russian forces in April 2003.

Aminat and Kurbika: Mothers of Aminat Dugaeva and Kurbika Zinabdieva said their daughters "disappeared on May 16, 2003. At approximately 3am, Aminat Dugaeva, 15, and her relative, Kurbika Zinabdieva, 34, were taken from the latter's home in Ulus-Kert in the mountainous region of Shatoi by armed, masked men in dark blue uniforms who had entered the village in military vehicles.

The previous day, Russian federal forces had been checking passports in the entire village and had checked the documents of Aminat Dugaeva and Kurbika Zinabdieva. The uniformed men who came at night reportedly entered one house only. Here they tied up Rumani Gekhaeva, the mother of Kurbika Zinabdieva, and left her in the courtyard where she remained, unable to see what happened in her house. Rumani Gekhaeva told Amnesty International that she was not found until later in the morning, and it was only then that she realized that her daughter and Aminat Dugaeva had "disappeared". None of their clothes was missing, but the men had taken documents regarding Kurbika Zinabdieva's health. She has a brain tumour and suffers from epilepsy, and is in need of constant medication.

While the relatives of Aminat Dugaeva and Kurbika Zinabdieva started searching for them, a spokesperson for the Russian federal forces in the North Caucasus reportedly announced on local TV that two women from Ulus-Kert had been detained under suspicion of terrorism. In a police publication (Reportedly this information was published in Shchit i meshch, June 2003) it was later mentioned that two women from Ulus-Kert had been accused of being involved in the hostage-taking in Moscow in October 2002. When the mothers of Aminat Dugaeva and Kurbika Zinabdieva turned to regional and local procuracies in an attempt to establish the whereabouts of their daughters, they were not given any information, and the procurator of Shatoi district even denied that the two had been detained, despite the public announcement made by other Russian officials earlier to the contrary.

Aminat Dugaeva and her family had been living in the Naurskii District of Northern Chechnya during the second conflict. She was visiting her relatives in Ulus-Kert for three days and was supposed to return to her family on the day she "disappeared". Her mother, Zlikhat Dugaeva, a widow whose three other children live abroad, and Rumani Gekhaeva now devote most of their time to the search for their daughters. They have both filed cases with the European Court of Human Rights as they felt that the authorities' response following the "disappearance" of their daughters has been inadequate and their concern for the well-being of their daughters has been met with inaction and even hostility.

In another country, you might ask how the Russian people would react if these crimes were being committed against Russian women, but sadly in Russia we know that in either case the population couldn't care less.

To send an e-mail to Vladimir Putin and urge him to stop this cowardly violence against women by his soldiers, click here.

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