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Kyrgyzstan: Chechens Rail Against Police

Law enforcement agencies accused of not investigating serious crimes committed against the minority.
By Natalia Domagalskaya

Ethnic Chechens in Kyrgyzstan have taken to the streets in protest at the police’s perceived reluctance to investigate crimes against their community.


On March 11, more than 40 Chechen women picketed Kyrgyz government offices after the murder three days earlier of Chechen businessman Balaudin Mazhedov, who was the victim of a drive-by shooting on a busy Bishkek street.


Luiza Khadalova, of the Chechen Mothers’ Committee, which organised the protest, told the media that they want to draw the authorities’ attention to the fact that nobody has yet been arrested in connection with any of 13 murder cases opened since 1999.


Many of the victims’ relatives have lost faith in the law enforcement agencies to the extent that they have started investigating the killings themselves, she added.


Petr Tyablin, deputy head of internal affairs department of Bishkek, rejected claims that the police were not bothering to look into crimes against Chechens. “There is no reason to suspect police prejudice,” he told the media on March 12.


Analysts, however, say that the media’s portrayal of Chechens as militants and criminals is probably colouring police attitudes to the community.


Eskerkhan Edilbaev, who chairs the National Chechen Cultural Centre in Bishkek, said, “The Russian media - including television, which is watched by the majority of people in Kyrgyzstan - is deliberately developing an image of the Chechen people as the enemy.


“News of the peaceful population of Chechnya is never published. Our Kyrgyzstani media immediately takes on this [negative] theme, which is then presented as fact.”


Another Chechen, who preferred not to give his name, said, “If a newspaper mentions a crime committed in Kyrgyzstan by a person of Russian, Kyrgyz or Korean nationality, then I can guess the nationality of the offender only by the last name.


“But if the crime is committed by a Chechen, then not only will his nationality be mentioned – it will probably be underlined in the headline.”


The bulk of the Chechen diaspora in Kyrgyzstan – which numbers around 3,000 - are descendants of those deported to the republic by former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1944. Most live in close-knit communities in the Alamudun district of the Chuy region.


Discrimination against the community began with the outbreak of the Chechen conflict and now even affects community leaders.


Edilbaev told IWPR that he has become used to police detention and threats, “I have to explain why I am currently in Kyrgyzstan instead of in war-torn Chechnya, even though all those who arrived here during the war in Chechnya were required to pass numerous identity tests to prove that they were not wanted combatants before being officially registered.


“Moreover, I was asked to provide police with a list of all members of the diaspora - but I refuse to do so until I receive an official request from the security services.”


Parliamentary deputy Isa Tokoev has admitted that the claims of the Chechen diaspora are not unfounded. “In different decades of our complex history, one nationality or another has been branded as ‘guilty’,” he told IWPR.


“Remember the attitudes toward Germans during the Second World War and in its aftermath, and those toward the Jews during their mass migration to Israel. I admit that the [government] does not always prevent [discrimination].”


Former foreign affairs minister Muratbek Imanaliev, who leads the party Justice and Progress, said that since Kyrgyzstan was a multi-ethnic state it should do its utmost to ensure that minorities such as the Chechens are treated fairly.


Natalia Domagalskaya is an independent journalist in Bishkek.


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