Staunton, April 26 – The human rights situation in Chechnya has not gotten dramatically worse under Ramzan Kadyrov because it was already bad when he came to office, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, says, but it has changed in a dramatic way, she notes, with the population so terrorized that people are afraid to say anything Kadyrov might not like.
If a Chechen dares to do so, Lyudmila Alekseyeva told Kavkaz-Uzel.ru in an interview posted online today, the powers that be will come down hard “not only on that individual but also on all his relatives and friends,” a “Stalnistpractice which is totally illegal and unique above all to Chechnya (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/184361/).
As a result, there is very little information coming out about what is actually going on, a situation that allows Kadyrov to claim that things are fine and improving in Chechnya in much the same way that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin managed to conceal from most outsiders the crimes he was committing against the people of the Soviet Union.
Alekseyeva says that there are no independent human rights organizations remaining in Chechnya. “They cannot work normally to the extent that they are under the full control of the Plenipotentiary for human rights in Chechnya Nurdi Nukhazhiyev,” who summons those he is displeased with and “demands that they disown their own words.”
Nukhazhiyev, Kavkaz-Uzel.ru notes, “has not infrequently criticized the activity of Russian human rights activits in Chechnya and especially the work of the Memorial Human Rights Center. He says that this group, “which is financed from abroad is pursuing political goals” by disseminating “negative information” about Chechnya.
According to Alekseyeva, the situation that Kadyrov and Nukhazhiyev have created means that “the only organization which is in a position to operate in Chechnya is the combined group of human rights activists from other regions.” But even they suffer restrictions because Nukhazhiyev says they are “absolutely not needed” in that republic.
Chechen political scientist Ruslan Martagov expands on Alekseyeva’s point. He told Kavkaz-Uzel.ru that those who know the region only from the media have the wrong impression on what is taking place in Chechnya and why. The Russian media suggests Kadyrov is winning the war against the Islamists, but Martagov says the facts are otherwise.
The militants have not left Chechnya for other North Caucasian republics because Kadyrov has frightened them. Instead, they have done so because he is doing what they would like to see the powers do: promote the imposition of Islam on all aspects of political and social life in the North Caucasus.
“In Chechnya,” Martagov points out, “is taking place the clericalization of the republic; the muftiates are becoming an inalienable structure of production, and an official dress code has been introduced. “We are called to give up many of the achievements of a free society” and return to the society of the past, the political scientist continues.
Although hidden from the public media, Kadyrov and his regime are making an attempt at “legalized feudalism and the construction of a theocratic state. This is equivalent to what the Wahhabis want to do.” But there is one difference: Kadyrov’s system would collapse in one day if the money stopped flowing, and he would be swept away by those more radical than he or by those who want a freer future.