Forgotten War

As the conflict in Chechnya worsens, the media ignore it.

Fred Weir

Editor’s note: After In These Times went to press, Russ­ian author­i­ties broke up a Chechen March for Peace” only moments after it began, claim­ing the par­tic­i­pants, most­ly women and chil­dren, lacked per­mis­sion to make the planned 70-day trek from Ingushetia to Moscow. 

The march was orga­nized by Russ­ian human rights activists to raise aware­ness about a group of Chechen refugees who have been on a hunger strike since June to protest poor liv­ing con­di­tions at camps in Ingushetia, where 150,000 Chechens have fled. The 1,200 mile route was was to end at the Krem­lin with an appeal to end the 23-month-old war. 

How­ev­er, this inci­dent comes just as Russ­ian author­i­ties are try­ing to per­suade refugees that it is safe to return home. Offi­cials esti­mate that 15,000 fam­i­lies could return to Chech­nya with­in the next two months. But Dani­il Mesh­erikov of the Helsin­ki Group insists these esti­mates are off the mark and that refugees will not return until they receive a guar­an­tee of safe­ty. None of the ini­tia­tives to return refugees have been accom­pa­nied by secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees,” Mesh­erikov told the press. There have been more and more fre­quent sweep oper­a­tions in the areas where refugees are meant to return to. So, as a con­se­quence, they pre­fer to live in these very dif­fi­cult con­di­tions [in the camps], in rel­a­tive safety.”

Fred Weir is a Moscow cor­re­spon­dent for In These Times and reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor, the Lon­don Inde­pen­dent, Cana­di­an Press and the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post. He is the co-author of Rev­o­lu­tion from Above: The Demise of the Sovi­et System.
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