Saturday, October 2, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Proposed Congress of Peoples of Daghestan Could Prove Explosive

Paul Goble

Staunton, October 2 – Daghestani President Magomedsalam Magomedov has called for the convention of a congress of peoples of his republic in order to consolidate society against extremism, but many fear this will be only a public relations stunt and some are concerned that it could prove explosive, given the high level of tensions there.
On Wednesday, Magomedov called for the organization of a congress of all the peoples of Daghestan, modeled on the one his father who preceded him as president held, in order to “show the true attitude of Daghestanis to the criminal activity of the extremist underground and condemn terrorism” (
But condemning extremism in and of itself is not enough, the Daghestani leader said, arguing that “this Congress must serve as an impulse to the consolidation of society and of all healthy forces in the republic … and mark the beginning of an all-Daghestani dialogue about the future of Daghestan.”
Both those possibilities, however, have prompted some in that increasingly unstable North Caucasus republic to question the utility of such a meeting, even though, as a survey of opinion there by the portal makes clear, Magomedov can count on the support of his own bureaucracy if not on the backing of others.
Gadzhimet Safaraliyev, who represents Daghestan in the Duma, said that he believes the measure would play “a positive role in the life of the republic,” all the more so because “the president of Daghestan … told me that he needs people who will speak the truth at the congress however bitter that truth might be.”
Akhmed Azizov, a deputy of the republic’s Popular Assembly, agreed and said that among those who should be invited would be “moderate Salafites” [those who advocate “pure” Islam against the Sufi traditions of the republic] because “now the time has come for open dialogues” not just with those who support the powers that be but also with those who oppose it.
And Akhmed Azimov, the chairman of the executive committee of the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus as well as an advisor to the leadership of the Council of Muftis of Russia (SMR), also supported the idea, arguing that if those who take part are prepared to speak “the truth in every case,” that could help “restore order and justice.”
He suggested that “today, Daghestan is at the edge of the abyss and needs an open conversation with the participation of genuinely authoritative personalities.” To that end, he suggested, the congress must include “representatives of all strata of the population, including Daghestanis living beyond the borders of the republic.”
But Isalmagomed Nabiyev, the head of the independent drivers and entrepreneurs union, expressed skepticism, noting that such meetings had been tried before without success, were bureaucratic exercises and did not offer any real possibility for a breakthrough. Indeed, he said, after Magomedov’s father held one, the situation got “much worse.”
Nabiyev said that the fight against terrorism and corruption should not be presented as “the work of one day” but rather must become “part of the routine” over a long period of time. Holding meetings is fine, but unless the actions of the powers that be change, nothing will be improved.
Zaur Cherilov, a Makhachkala resident with whom spoke, also opposed the idea of the meeting. He said that he had never encountered terrorism but “on the other hand, each day I see incompetence, corruption, and the clanic quality of the bureaucrats, their triumph, the arbitrariness of the siloviki, the death of young people, and the collapse of infrastructure.”
As for himself, Cherilov said, “it would be funny to see on the tribune of [such a] congress a corrupt and incompetent bureaucrat who will call all of us to the struggle with terrorism as if we were in equal circumstances.” If that happens, it could easily make the situation worse.
Just how angry Daghestanis are was highlighted on Thursday when approximately 100 people assembled there to protest against state terrorism in the republic, including cases of kidnapping by official forces (
The meeting called on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to take steps to protect the rights of Daghestanis as “Russian citizens” and pointedly warned that this week’s meeting is “only the beginning” because “we will no longer put up with the illegality and ignoring of our rights. Our patience is at an end and it is better that you understand that.”

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