IN THE SAND
on the Beslan School Tragedy
deferring my article 'Moon Over Luxor' and others on my
Egypt trip to write this note. I normally stay away from
the world of politics, and ostrich-like dig my head in the
sands of Nature, Family and philosophical issues. Call me
an escapist; I call it self-preservation. Still, I couldn't
watch or read the news about the recent Chechen episode
involving the death of school children---plus the recent
and unconscionable bomb scare at a school in Bangladesh,
without raising my head to make some comment.
my writings I am apolitical by conscious choice but I am
not apathetic. Yet, every political issue, however compelling,
does not engage my heart. But as a mother, I just couldn't
digest the news about the hostage taking of school children
and the tragedy without a public cry.)
humans eat their young too! Welcome to the jungle. Shame
on the new religion of extremism, which sanctions the slaughter
of babies at the altar of political means and ends. Shame
on the savage society that political oppressions have spawned
where 'freedom-fighters' use schools as political stake-out
points and tremulous children as bargaining chips; and where
strong-arm governments, more concerned about territorial
integrity than human rights and predicaments, disregard
the safety and sanctity of children to bulldoze their enemies.
heartsick at the inevitable outcome of the Beslan school
crisis. As a mother, of two young men who have unfortunately
entered the world at one of the most dismal point of human
history, I am struck hopeless when they ask in despair,
"What kind of crazy world have we inherited?"
no answer except to clasp them to my heart and reassure
them that there is a world beyond the one of political exigencies;
a world of justice and compassion that we must believe in
and help create in our individual ways. Humanity's causes
must be those to LIVE for, not to kill or die for.
the dispossessed and victimised this is easier said than
done. At the bottom of the killing fields of the world lurks
the basic need for people to claim a tract of land to call
their home, where they can be free to conduct their lives
as they deem fit. (If only the deluded knew that gaining
freedom over a tract of land does not necessarily mean freedom
from other oppressions, as is true of Bangladesh today!)
Nevertheless, any attempt by powers to obstruct this impulse
towards territorial imperative seems to trigger people into
the most volatile acts.
writing is splattered in red on the walls. No one likes
to behave like animals but no one can tolerate being subjugated,
and any situation that creates socio-political injustice
and remains unresolved creates the behaviour of trapped
animals. And the feral side of a people victimized by injustice
and brutalized by systematic tyranny can lead them to abnormal
acts. Abnormality is a system that has broken down and needs
to be repaired and redressed.
facile and futile to condemn the Chechen rebels without
also condemning Putin's policy of non-compromise. It is
the business of governments not to put the land before the
people. Not to deal fairly with a large section of ones
disgruntled population and treat them as humans, forces
them to become inhuman. Force is a double-edged sword and
terrorism is only a label for what both governments and
individuals do to each other when reasoning stops working.
IRA was a terrorist organization till Britain made a political
settlement with it. Putin's government has to face its Chechen
reality at a political level. After all it was political
history, which created the hostile situation in Chechnya,
Beslan school situation showed us a group of rebels who
behaved like monsters. But we must force ourselves to understand
how this could happen. The saddest elucidation would be
the statement of one of the survivors of the Beslan incident
regarding her conversation with one of the hostage-takers.
Santa Zangiyeva, 15 was reported in a BBC interview saying:
"There was this man of about 35, a typical Chechen,
his right hand bandaged. He was the angriest of our captors,
threatening us all the time and firing into the ceiling.
It was so stuffy I fainted several times, so my mum asked
him to take me to the corridor for a breath of air. To my
surprise he agreed. In the corridor, I sat down on a rucksack.
But he said: 'Don't sit on this one, there are mines in
it, sit on that one instead'... I asked him 'Will you at
least let the children go?' He said: 'No - why? Your Russian
troops in Chechnya catch children just like you and cut
their heads off. I had a daughter, about your age, and they
killed her,' he said.
to this must be added the fact that Russian forces and security
operations in Chechnya have been accused by human rights
groups of committing abuses against the population. Men
disappear, and there are many reports of rape and summary
executions. Also, during the last 10 years of a vicious
war in Chechnya, Moscow carpet-bombed complete villages,
and some destroyed towns are now inhabited almost exclusively
by old people, abandoned by younger men who escaped to the
mountains to continue fighting. Many of the suicide bombers
now are women - the "Black Widows" - sisters of
dead Chechen fighters, sworn to avenge their families at
the cost of their own lives.
the Russian military has created fertile grounds for terrorism.
A glance at the bitter history of Chechnya will cast more
light. Towards the end of World War II, Stalin ordered the
deportation of Muslims from Ingush, along with their ethnic
cousins the Chechens, to Central Asia, accusing them of
potential collaboration with Hitler's Germany. Many Ingush
and Chechen homes were occupied by other nationalities,
including the neighbouring Christian Ossetians. When Khrushchev
allowed the deported nations to return in the mid-1950s
there were inevitable conflicts over occupied homes and
territory. Chechens and Ingush remained bitter over the
deportation, and there was a strong current of separatist
fears that if Chechnya broke away it could provoke demands
for independence elsewhere in the region and become a centre
of lawlessness and Islamic militancy. Having lost so much
of the old Soviet Union, Russia would not be affected by
the loss of Chechnya worse than it is now! Professor Margot
Light of the London School of Economics said, "Putin
has to start talking to … Aslan Mashkadov who was
the Chechen president until the '99 invasion. Mr Putin argues
that this is international terrorism. Frankly this is rubbish.
Any involvement by al-Qaeda to train or fund the Chechens
post-dates the conflict."
just in Chechnya, many other parts of the world have been
abused and the victims are unleashing abuse back. They are
crying out. They need to be listened to, their scars healed.
Beating these criminals cannot help. Their crime is not
written in their natures, but imposed on them by their oppressors.
Remove the oppression; listen to their demands. Let people
have their freedom. Peace does not mean an artificial pause
between fighting. Peace is a natural state, which can only
grow in a world that is free, that respects freedom. And
only in a free world can our children be safe from man-made
horrors: Russian children, Chechen children, the children
who died at Beslan and who will be reborn in love and hope.
from next week I return my head ostrich-like into the sands…of
(R) thedailystar.net 2004