Eliza Moussaeva and Bela Tsugaeva discuss the current situation in Chechnya. Moussaeva is the head of the regional branch of the human rights organization Memorial in Nazran, Ingushetia. Tsugaeva is a program assistant with World Vision, working with displaced Chechens in Ingushetia.
Bela Tsugaeva: With the eruption of military operations in Chechnya more than 150,000 citizens of Chechnya left Chechnya for neighboring Ingushetia. The total number of the Chechen population at the moment [that they left] is estimated 600,000 citizens. Out of them 150,000 citizens left Chechnya for neighboring Ingushetia.
At the moment on the territory of Ingushetia there are seven tented camps. There are also 190 spontaneous camps, that is, those buildings, those industrial buildings which were primarily used for industrials aims but today are no longer operational. There are inappropriate conditions for living there. Because these people don’t have another variant, they have to move to these particular buildings.
And another part of the IDP’s [internally displaced persons] moved to the host family sector. It means that the local Ingush families – Ingushetia is neighboring with Chechnya -- they are hosted by Ingush families. If we go into the percentage level, I would say that 15% of IDP’s live today in the seven tented camps in Ingushetia. Another 20% live in the spontaneous points and another 65% live today in the host family sector.
Today on the territory of Ingushetia there are 30 nongovernmental organizations: international and local and also UN agencies. 70% of the needs of internally displaced persons are covered by international aid and this is the only way to survive. You can imagine that we are talking only about IDP’s on the territory of Ingushetia, but what about those who are in Chechnya, who are in very difficult conditions? There are only a few organizations and today they are in hunger. That aid is not enough also for those who are in Ingushetia.
They also don’t have the opportunity to be educated, because the zone is overcrowded. They don’t have a place to go to the local schools because they have their own local students. Today, unfortunately, the usual day of the children is to collect bottles in the street and to take them to the place where they can get money for them. They can buy bread to feed their mothers who are very often without husbands, who were killed during these cleaning operations.
Yes, you said about the jobs. It’s practically impossible to find jobs there, because the local population is employed and they are working in their factories. As for the internally displaced persons, the only thing to do is just to live in these tented camps and wait for humanitarian assistance. No development, no education, though UNICEF and other agencies have tried to do something and we are very grateful to them, but it is not enough. We afraid that our generation will be an illiterate generation. We don’t know what we can wait for.
Of course, all internally displaced persons dream of going back to Chechnya, to their motherland, because only motherland can give you the necessary energy with which you were born. They dream, every day they go to bed dreaming that tomorrow they can return back to Chechnya. But the situation in Chechnya doesn’t let them go there, because there are permanent cleaning operations, there is torture, disappearances. The security situation is very bad there and that is why they can’t go back to Chechnya, to their motherland, unfortunately. What is the factor that is keeping them there? This is the answer I think.
Eliza Moussaeva: To live in Chechnya is a risk itself. Because any day, any time the military can enter any house and take out any person, mainly the male population, and take them out in an unknown direction. As a result of this there are more than 2,000 disappeared persons in the Chechen Republic. And if you take into account the total number of the population, 600,000, you can understand yourself the scale of this.
The cleaning up operations are very terrible in Chechnya. The “cleaning operation” is the so-called checking of passports, but in reality it is a very cruel operation. One settlement can be surrounded by the military. Within several days the soldiers can do whatever they want. They can enter any house and can take anything they like there. They can enter any house and if they don’t want to pick up something from the property they can just shoot or destroy it. They humiliate, insult children, women, and elderly. At the latest stage there is a lot of information about their trying to be cruel towards women.
But the most terrible thing is that they take away the men. It is totally illegal. Because according to the Russia constitution they should follow some procedures. Today unfortunately in Chechnya they don’t observe these regulations. When people try to explain to them: What are you doing? It is illegal. The answer is: what are you talking about, you are Chechens, that’s all. Can you imagine the impression, the state of the child when he sees or she sees when his or her father is taken away by soldiers?
You know the order #80 you mentioned before, it is not the only order, which was issued by the government trying to humane the atmosphere on the territory of Chechnya. [Russian General Vladimir] Moltenskoy also issued the order in May, there was also one in July the order issued by the [Russian] General Procurator [Vladimir] Ustinov and a month ago Moltenskoy signed the order [#80]. Moltenskoy is the head of the military forces in Chechnya.
We are not denying the fact that today in Chechnya there is a partisan war. But the Russian army is fighting not against partisans. These partisans make some act, some attacks, but the persons who suffer are civilians first of all.
But more often soldiers conduct these terrible operations, cleaning operations, without any reason even if attacks were not taken by the fighters. Because for the Russian army today every Chechen is a fighter. It is just a total hatred for the civilians. It is the hatred towards men, towards women, towards elderly, towards children. If [Russian General Vladimir] Shamanov said that the wife of any fighter is a fighter and the child, the son, of any fighter is a fighter, what can we talk about?
We have the fear to God, we believe in God. Maybe only this belief saves us today. Because we don’t see another support around us. After the first war we thought that everything could be changed, that it would be ended, that we could go back and live happily. And when the second war started now we are waiting for another war, another war, and we don’t have any guarantees.
Bela Tsugaeva: I would like to add also, I am Chechen by ethnicity. I am a Chechen citizen and IDP myself. Today I am not optimistic, unfortunately. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t know what is waiting for me in the future. The only hope for me is just the support of another country. In Russia I am sure I will not find this support. That is why we are here to say S.O.S.