Sunday, August 16, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Daghestanis Back Militants’ Imposition of Shariat Law When Officials Don’t Enforce Civil Code

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 16 – The failure of corrupt officials in Daghestan to enforce Russian laws have opened the way for militants to enforce Islamic shariat law, a unilateral -- and from the point of view of the state illegal -- action that is attracting the support of many people in that North Caucasus republic, according to a leading Makhachkala editor.
And it is that trend, Nadira Isayaeva of “Chernovik” says, that helps to explain last Thursday’s violent attacks in Buinaksk against a militia post and nearby sauna (which many people there believe is a militia-protected place of prostitution) that claimed 11 lives and attracted attention far beyond Daghestan (
“When the population, including representatives of the [Muslim] Spiritual Directorate [MSD] of Daghestan appealed to the authorities and raised the question of doing something about prostitution,” the editor told yesterday, the authorities did nothing and consequently, “an alternative space which works according to its own laws has arisen.”
Those who attacked the militia post and the nearby sauna acted “outside the [civic] legal field.” After all, “they are called illegal armed formations.”But, she continued, these people “consider that they live according to the laws of Islam and the shariat” and that they can impose “sentences” on its basis. And many people in Daghestan support their efforts.
On Thursday, a group of militants attacked a militia station and killed four officers there. Then a few minutes later, the same group broke into a sauna 200 meters away and killed seven people there. Isayeva suggests the two attacks are interlinked because “this sauna could not function without militia protection.”
If Isayeva is right and those who carried out the attack view themselves and are viewed by others as “carrying out a sentence” rather than simply engaging in terrorism, that is a measure of the decay of the authority of state institutions of all kinds in Daghestan and of the challenges the powers that be there and in Moscow now face.
In support of her contention on this point, Isayeva recalled to that when the militants killed a member of the republic’s Popular Assembly in 2007, “they said that they had executed him on the basis of a sentence of a shariat court.” That is because, she continued, “the participants of the illegal armed formations considered him a traitor.”
The man who carried out the killing, the “Chernovik” editor said, “did not conceal what he had done but rather came into the house of [the deputy’s] parents and said: ‘I killed your son [because] he is guilty of this and that,” according to the principles and provisions of Islamic shariat law.
Such attitudes must be especially disturbing to Daghestan officials because, as reported, “during the first six months of 2009, no fewer than 30 employees of law enforcement bodies and military units were killed and no fewer than 41 members of these groups were wounded,” far more than the losses of the civilian population.
But they may be even more worrisome to Moscow because while Daghestan is far and away the most Islamic of the North Caucasus republics within the Russian Federation, Muslims in other parts of that region also view the shariat with respect, and at least some of them may be considering acting on it as “an alternative legal space.”

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