Vienna, February 15 – Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov yesterday appealed to the 180 families in his North Caucasus republic who are now involved in blood feuds to resolve their differences and allow law enforcement agencies there to bring to justice those guilty of the crimes which have triggered these disputes up to now.
Yevkurov said told the meeting in Magas that “blood feuds are a tragedy not only for the suffering families and clans in which an individual dies but also for the families and clans whose relative has committed the murder,” leading the former to violence and the latter to live a life of fear (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/krovnaya_mest).
The newly installed president called on those whose family members have been victims of crime to turn over the responsibility for prosecuting those guilty of them to prosecutors and the courts and to take that action prior to the 65th anniversary of the Soviet deportation of the Ingush a week from Monday.
At the meeting, two pairs of families – including the family of Magomed Yevloyev, the rights activist who appears to have been killed by order of the republic’s former president Murat Zyazikov, agreed to end their blood feuds, including one pair that had been locked in such a dispute since 1970. Yevkurov thanked them and asked all the others to follow their example.
Among the reasons Yevkurov had for taking this step is a desire to boost his own power and to end a situation in which militia officers are targeted by the families of their victims (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/125270 and www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/98387). But his appeal calls attention to three things about blood feuds and blood feud societies that are often forgotten.
First, the assumptions of Muscow and Hollywood notwithstanding, blood feud societies are not necessarily more violent than non-blood feud societies. The number who take part in such actions is small -- 180 families in a republic the size of Ingushetia is not large – because the likelihood of reprisal is so large.
Second, blood feuds are not random violence but rather are actions governed by a set of set down by customary law (adat) which precisely defines when a blood feud can be declared, how it should be pursued, and when it can be declared over because the claims of justice have been satisfied.
And third, anyone outside the immediate families involved faces enormous difficulties in ending such conflicts. At yesterday’s session, two families who did agree to do so have been locked in it for 38 years, both because people on both sides did not feel that they had achieved their goals and because the government authorities could not or would not do anything for them.
Yevkurov is to be commended for trying to reduce the number of such feuds, but he is likely to find as have other reformers before him that unless he can ensure that the militia, the prosecutors, and the courts will provide reliable justice – something his predecessors could not – he faces a difficult if not impossible task.
And as a result, it seems unlikely that many Ingush families will end their feuds in the next eight days and far more likely that people in that much-troubled North Caucasus republic will continue to engage in blood feuds not because they are violent or bloody minded but because they want the justice they cannot get anywhere else.