Monday, May 12, 2008

Window on Eurasia: North Caucasians Fear for Their Lives in Stavropol

Paul Goble

Istanbul, May 13 –A rising tide of skinhead violence against Chechen and Ingush youths enrolled in higher educational institutions in Stavropol kray, one that recently resulted in the knifing death of a Chechen student, has sparked fears among the parents of these students that their children may be killed as well, according to the Memorial Human Rights Organization.
That is all the more so, the parents say, because it appears that the police in Stavropol are unwilling to take any real steps either to bring those responsible for these attacks to justice or otherwise protect the Chechen, Ingush and other North Caucasus students now in that Russian region (
And if this situation intensifies, it is entirely possible that the North Caucasus students may respond in kind, triggering even more violence, or simply withdraw from the Stavropol educational institutions, thus postponing even further into the future any chance that the North Caucasus region will be able to develop in ways that might promote stability there.
The current upsurge in concern began on April 20th when an Ingush and a Chechen student at the North Caucasus State Technical University in Stavropol were attacked by a group of persons unknown. Both ended up in the hospital with serious wounds, where one of them, Ali Khamutayev, died.
His mother told Memorial representatives what had happened. Her son was going home with his girlfriend and Islam Khamkoyev, an Ingush, when they were accosted by a group of up to 10 young people, whose heads were shaved and who were dressed in leather jackets, the typical gear of xenophobic Russian nationalist skinheads.
They asked Ali for a cigarette, and when he said he didn’t smoke, they attacked him and Khamkoyev with knives. Islam lost consciousness. And the attackers then fled. The girl who had been with them called for help, but by the time assistance came, the attackers were long gone. And when the two men were taken to the hospital, Khamutayev died “from loss of blood.”
Khamkoyev survived, but the chief doctor of the hospital “asked his relatives to take Islam away from the hospital since [the doctor] could not guarantee his security,” Memorial reported. And now, Islam is recuperating not in Stavropol where he had been a student but in a hospital in Ingushetiya.
The Stavropol militia launched a criminal case for the attack which they said was the work of “hooligans” and in no way connected with the ethnicity of the attackers and the attacked. They arrested but then released ten men, one of whom the girl at the scene recognized as having taken part. But the militia said he was at the other end of town.
Now, not surprisingly, she fears for her life, and according to Memorial, “the representatives of the law enforcement agencies [in Stavropol] apparently are not able to guarantee her security.” Indeed, the same night that this attack took place, skinheads in Stavropol attacked an ethnic Azerbaijani there.
Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman Nurdi Nukhadzhiyev has appealed to the procurator general and minister of internal affairs of the Russian Federation to intervene, arguing that what had occurred was the product of the failure of law enforcement agencies to punish those responsible or even their complicity with the attackers.
The fascist-like youth groups” in Stavropol, Nukhadzhiyev said, are animated by “the absurd idea” that they will be able to “liberate the Caucasus, of which beyond doubt Stavropol is a part, from [its indigenous population]. And consequently, he continued, Moscow must intervene to stop it.
For its part, Memorial documented both skinhead attacks there over the last year, some of which have resulted in fatalities, and the unwillingness of the Stavropol authorities to recognize them as ethnic crimes or take adequate measures to protect members of minority groups bring those responsible for attacks against them to justice."

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