Wednesday, 13 April 2011

North Caucasus Journal- Day 8- Makhachkala

Sevil Novruzova, her brother was radicalised and died in
a gun battle with Russian security forces.

We finished our journey through the north Caucasus with an interview in Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, with Sevil Novruzova. Her brother Ramil became a militant and was killed in a gun battle with police in 2008. She noted, with tears in her eyes how he became radicalised at university while he was supposed to be studying law. One day after he left university some of his friends left. As people across the North Caucasus say, they ‘went to the forest’. Ramil started to bring them food. Sevil confronted him and told him if he didn’t stop she would force him to. He left home the next day without a word to anyone of even packing a bag. She never saw him again.

Police told her that Ramil and a group of militants were surrounded in the woods soon after. They said they tried to make the militants give up, and thought they were about to surrender. However their leader wanted death and glory and started shooting, dragging them into a gun battle in which Ramil and all the others were killed.

Sevil curses the extremists who brainwashed him and forced him to give up his life. It’s an example of the worst kind damage that the North Caucasus insurgency really does. It tears apart families and communities. Sevil blames the militants.

But others differ in their opinions. Rasul Magomedov, the father of Miriam Shirpova who blew herself up at Moscow's Lubyanka metro station in March 2010, massacring twenty six innocent bystanders, blames the police. He says it was there brutality that forced his daughter, a sharia wife of a militant who had been killed in a shootout, into her actions by making her an outcast of society. His views are controversial in Russia, some even see them as siding with the terrorists, but they are held by many see that at the very least Russia's police in the North Caucasus are corrupt (true, we had bribes extracted from us three times and resisted other attempts), at worst they are thugs who themselves terrorize the local population. All of this argument doesn't help Sevil or Rasul who have lost loved ones.

We spent nearly two weeks in the North Caucasus. I’ve included just the interesting days and parts, and interesting they were indeed. We've met people affected in all sorts of ways by the region's troubling insurgency. We discovered some of the complexities the conflict forces on people, and the anger and hurt it causes. But we've also seen great generosity, rich culture and religion that don't have time for any of the region's ideological excesses. There’s a sense of getting on with daily life here despite its frustrations and risks. But like so many things here in the North Caucasus a solution will not come quickly, and like the ethnic, religious, cultural and political mix here, it will not be simple either.

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