Monday, April 19, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Neither Moscow, Nor Dushanbe Interested in Ending Skinhead Violence Against Migrants, Tajik Diaspora Leader Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 19 – A bombing by persons yet unknown of a slum apartment in Moscow where a group of Tajik gastarbeiters that left many of them injured and some near death was probably the work of Russian nationalist skinheads, Karomat Sharipov, the president of the All-Russian Social Movement Tajik Labor Migrants, says.
But he says, such actions do not take place in a vacuum. On the one hand, Sharipov points out, there are “smart people” in the Russian government who are fully capable of stopping the skinheads but “for some reason or other they do not want to,” preferring instead that “the murders and explosions continue,” even if local Russians are among the victims.
And on the other, the government of Tajikistan, whose citizens the gastarbeiters are, “closes its eyes to all of this,” rather than taking a pro-active role, sending officials to protect its citizens and pull them out of Russia if there are no jobs or if the Tajiks here are mistreated in one way or another (
Such a sense of abandonment by officials both Russian and Tajik appears likely to generate support for calls by diaspora leaders for the gastarbeiters to take responsibility for their own defense by organizing armed guards, a development that almost certainly would lead to more violence both between them and the skinheads and between the Tajiks and the regime.
In his interview with Dmitry Treshchanin of “Svobodnaya pressa,” Sharipov said that he like other Tajiks in the Russian capital believe that “radical nationalists” like the skinheads were behind this and other attacks, but they are not prepared to make any final judgment given that the cases are now in the hands of government investigators.
One of the reasons many Tajiks are convinced that the skinheads were behind this bombing, Sharipov continued, is that people in Moscow “recently witnessed the fact that they killed a judge. If they deal with a judge in this way, then with labor migrants, the situation is much easier.”
The Tajik leader said that the skinhead problem should have been addressed and solved a long time ago. “Today, the powers that be are strong, and there are intelligent people in power, but somehow they do not want to stop it. Instead they without difficulty find someone who doesn’t have registration and confine him for 20 days in a special detention facility.”
“Confine in the same way all the skinheads for 20 days,” Sharipov said, “and they will give testimony and it will be possible that those who ordered and organized these acts can be found. Apparently, the powers that be are interested that these murders and explosions continue,” even when “citizens of Russian die.”
The problems of the Tajik gastarbeiters are not limited to such violence, he continued. Most of them live in horrific conditions, but this “fits the needs of the employers. One employer without the help of the powers that be cannot do anything. We must understand that this takes place as a result of corruption against which President Medvedev struggling personally.”
The laws are on the side of the Tajik workers, Sharipov pointed out, but “nothing is done without the approval of the local powers that be” and they “are always ready to do anything for money.” The interconnectedness of corruption among employers and the interior ministry thus works against the law and against the Tajiks.
Sharipov points out that “it is written in the Koran that anyone who loves money too strongly should not go to a mosque or read prayers. For me,” the Tajik labor leader said, “those [who conduct such actions against their fellow men] are not people, they are all godless” and think they can get away with anything because the militia will do nothing.
Asked what he would do to address the situation, Sharipov said that in Moscow’s eastern district were many Tajiks work, it is “time” to name a Tajik to head certain key offices. “What are you afraid of?” he asks. “I can tell you that [such a Tajik] will steal less” and the laws will be enforced.
In addition, he suggested, “it is possible to put popular militias [druzhinniki] composed of the Tajiks themselves around the houses of migrants so that there will be security not only for their place of residence but also for adjoining houses with Russian citizens.” The powers that be, he continued, “do not want this because it would not be profitable” for them.
The situation of the Tajiks in Moscow is especially bleak, he said, because their own government “closes its eyes to all of this.” If Dushanbe were to send officials to ensure that their rights were protected or they were withdrawn if they are not, Tajik gastarbeiters would be much better off. But that has not happened, and it does not appear likely.
In a comment appended to this interview, the “Svobodnaya pressa” journalist says that the conditions in which Tajik workers now live in Moscow resemble those of “slavery.” In some cases, there are as many as 40 Tajiks living in a single one-room apartment. But he added that most Russians are openly hostile to the Tajiks, an attitude that limits the possibility of change.
And Treshchanin recalls that this weekend’s bombing is only the latest in a long string of violence against foreigners and especially gastarbeiters from Central Asia. During the first quarter of 2010, he notes, there were 45 attacks motivated by xenophobia, as a result of which 43 people were injured and 12 killed.

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