The Boston Marathon Bombing, Chechnya and Ecocidal Tendencies

20 Apr

by Panagioti, Earth First! Newswire

Lake Kezenoy-am (Lake Goluboye, Russian: Кезенойам, Голубое; Chechen: Къоьзаной-Iaм) is a lake in Chechnya near border with Dagestan, Russia that goes through Andiyskiy Khrebet (Andian Ridge); later the border of Dagestan went into Chechnya taking half of the lake in to Dagestan. It is situated at an altitude of 1870 m above sea level and fills and area of 2.4 km². The maximum depth of the lake is 74 m. In winter the surface of the lake freezes and in summer the water temperature is around 5 °C. The lake water has a year-round supply of oxygen in which plankton survive. Salmo ezenami, a rare species of trout, are native only to the lake; however their population is threatened with extinction due to the introduction of European chubs (Squalius cephalus) which consume the fry of the Salmo

Tired of looking at the same blurry images of the Brothers Tsarnaev? Here’s Lake Kezenoy-am (Chechen: Къоьзаной-Iaм) in Chechnya near border with Dagestan, Russia that goes through Andiyskiy Khrebet (Andian Ridge). Salmo ezenami, a rare species of trout, are native only to the lake; however their population is threatened with extinction.

There a good chance that you are reading this now because of our initial post on the Boston Marathon bombing, “A Tale of Two Terrorisms,” going viral last week, catching the eye of a couple hundred thousand readers (the post was just one short story in an extensive series of articles on drones, repression and the techno-industrial empire). Within a few days it seemed everyone was disturbingly trying to boost their social media hits by referencing Boston, for example the Westboro Baptists claiming it was “God” who brought on the carnage because Massachusetts was the first state to pass same-sex marriage.

By now, I’d guess that you already know more about the alleged young Chechen bombers, the brothers Tsarnaev, than you know about most of your own next door neighbors. But how much have you learned about the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and what some call “one of the bloodiest occupations of the 21st century”?

The mountains in the area Sharoi, Chechnya.

The mountains in the area Sharoi, Chechnya.

Yesterday, an EF! Newswire author hinted at the history: While the US stood as allies behind the Russian Federation’s chauvinism in Chechnya, the landscape was rendered, according to an aid to [Boris] Yeltsin, an “environmental wasteland.” Oil spills, radioactive pollution, and chemical spills resulted from the massive bombardment of Chechnya. Half of Chechnya today is officially considered a “zone of ecological disaster” by the Russian Federation. This may be part of the reason the Tsarnaev Brothers had only spent one year in Chechnya, itself, throughout their entire lives.

While no evidence yet connects the Tsarnaevs to any organized Chechen resistance efforts, and no entity (other than the Westboro Baptists’ god) has claimed the bombing, it seems worthwhile to further understand the social, ecological and historical context of Chechen struggle that this bombing occurred within.

eyes of fire chechen rebel

Famous image of a Chechen rebel fighter: “Eyes of fire.. Occupation stokes resistance and fuels terror.” Source, Photo: Heidi Bradner / Panos Pictures

Chechnya, referred to also as Ichkeria (“Land of Minerals”), is a federal subject of Russia located in the southeastern part of Europe in the North Caucasus mountains. Chechens declared sovereignty and independence in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR, but have remained under Russian occupation since 1996, presumably because the region holds a strategic geographic position linking Russia by pipeline and rail to the rich Caspian Sea oilfields.

Much of the following information is from the few English-language Chechen solidarity websites I was able to find.

A map depicting the diversity in Ethno-Linguistic groups in the Caucasus region. Check out this link for a list of tribal unions and clans in Chechnya.

A map depicting the diversity in Ethno-Linguistic groups in the Caucasus region. Check out this link for a list of tribal unions and clans in Chechnya.

The Chechen struggle against the Russian invaders dates back to the late 1700’s. More recently, February 23, 1944, Stalin ordered the deportation of the entire Chechen and Ingush population to Central Asia. More than half of the 500,000 people who were to be forcibly transported died in transit or in massacres committed by Soviet troops.

Since 1994, about 300,000 civilians have been killed, and about 200,000 civilians forced to seek refuge in all over the world. A decade of war and repression has devastated every tier of Chechen Society and killed or displaced approximately a third of the pre-war population.

Leading Human Rights organizations have documented rampant human rights abuses and disappearances of ordinary Chechen men, women and children that are happening on a near daily basis even after the declaration of so-called end for the “anti-terrorist operations” by the colonial Russian Federation in 2009.

Despite this, the European and US political establishments, and much of the mainstream media, continue to ignore the plight of the Chechen people – unless it be to conflate the Chechen struggle with the “War on Terror”.

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to find out that Chechnya’s main mineral wealth is in oil. At the beginning of the last century, commercial oil was only produced in three fields. The Soviet authorities ordered detailed studies to be made of the geological structure of the Grozny oil province, which uncovered a string of new oil deposits.

By 1917 Chechen oil already accounted for 17% of Russia’s entire output of natural petroleum. Today’s oil deposits still amount to about 30 million metric tons. In addition to oil, Chechnya contains significant deposits of natural gas.

In the wake of two wars, peoples’ relation to their land-base has been all but severed, as much of Chechen agricultural land is now riddled with landmines. As for the urban environment, the Kremlin’s appointed regime started a “rebuilding project” estimated at around $300 billion (in contracts to who, one might ask), yet the unemployment rate there today is still at 80-85%. [Source]

In 2006 Human Rights Watch reported that pro-Moscow Chechen forces under the command, in effect, of chapter of republic Ramzan Kadyrov, as well as federal police personnel, used torture to get information about separatist forces. “If you are detained in Chechnya, you face a real and immediate risk of torture. And there is little chance that your torturer will be held accountable,” said Holly Cartner, Director Europe and Central Asia division of HRW.

On July 1, 2009, Amnesty International released a detailed report covering the human rights violations committed by the Russian Federation against Chechen citizens. Among the most prominent features was that those abused had no method of redress against assaults, ranging from kidnapping to torture, while those responsible were never held accountable. This led to the conclusion that Chechnya was being ruled without law, being run into further devastating destabilization.

According to an article in The Guardian on the “unprecedented link” between Chechen rebels and US bombings, it is not something to be ignored or taken lightly:

Pictured on the left is Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, suspected of being one of the two female suicide bombers in the Moscow metro attack in March 2010. Pictured on the left is her husband, Umalat Magomedo, a Chechen rebel killed by Russian forces in December 2009. Authorities believe the wife staged the attack in revenge for her husband's death.

Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, suspected of being one of two female suicide bombers in the Moscow metro attack in March 2010. On the left her husband, Umalat Magomedo, a Chechen rebel killed by Russian forces in December 2009. Authorities believe the wife staged the attack in revenge for her husband’s death. Source

This call to global jihad may perhaps offer a motive for an attack inside the US. As perhaps were trips back to Caucasus by the two bombing suspects… The main Chechen rebel website, kavkazcenter.com, posts reports from the jihadist movement worldwide: from Syria, where Chechen diaspora fighters are battling government forces in Aleppo, from Pakistan, and from Turkey.  [EF!N Note: Clicking this website will likely get your computer’s IP address tracked closely by the FBI, if it is not already.]

In the North Caucausus, meanwhile, the Kremlin is carrying out a brutal and rolling counter-insurgency campaign. Its focus is Dagestan, the neighbouring state to Chechnya, and now a hotbed of violent jihadist rebellion. Three weeks ago, Umarov appealed to Chechen fighters abroad to come home to take part in the fight.

A policeman keeps watch at the site of a suicide bombing in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, on September 16, 2009. (S. Dal/Reuters)

A policeman keeps watch at the site of a suicide bombing in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, on September 16, 2009. (S. Dal/Reuters)

Cerwyn Moore, an expert on the insurgency in southern Russian insurgency at Birmingham University, said he was surprised it may have spilled over into the US. “It’s a marked change. It seems very odd. There have never been attacks like this outside Russia.” But he added: “You have a group of people who have lived outside Chechnya because of the second Chechen war. This is also an inter-generational thing.”

Odd or not, the Boston bombings play perfectly into the Kremlin’s hands, ahead of Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics, to be hosted in Sochi, not far from where the current insurgency is raging. It reinforces Putin’s claim – first made in 1999 – that his violent methods are justified to quell a ruthless rebellion by terrorists prepared to take innocent lives.

Another recent article in The Atlantic followed up with this critical insight:

Fear works, and in Russia the Chechen people are cast as the perfect enemy: Islamist radicals who celebrate the 9/11 attacks and pay homage to Al Qaeda. In the next few days, the Putin government will point to the Boston bombings as the result of any and all Chechen opposition to Russian rule.

Ivan Sekretarev/AP Images A destroyed apartment building at the site of one of the Moscow bombings, September 9, 1999

A destroyed apartment building at the site of one of the Moscow bombings, September 9, 1999. Ivan Sekretarev/AP Images.

This has been Putin’s game for the past 15 years. After rising to power in 1999 on a promise to crush Chechen separatists, he exploited a series of terrorist attacks known as the “apartment bombings” to bolster his electoral chances. Almost 300 people died in explosions across three Russian cities. The tumultuous attack was purportedly carried out by Chechen rebels. However, a recently published book about the events by a Stanford University academic indicates that the horrific attack was most likely organized and financed by Putin and his henchmen — to stir up nationalistic fervor, paving the way for the subsequent Russian invasion of Chechnya and cementing his reputation for being “tough on terror.”

In the 2000 elections, Putin ran on a successful platform of restoring national pride and identity, and taking back the former colony of Chechnya was a major talking point. Reopening the Chechen conflict gave him the opportunity to play tough, to show strength, and to exercise his military might while voters cheered for a post-Soviet champion. Even President Bush praised Putin’s “strong hand” against terrorists in Chechnya.

The result is that the world perceives Chechens as troublesome Islamist terrorists, and is willing to accept the thug-like Kadyrov as a bulwark against extremism.

By the time we are posting this story, we’ve found that other news sources (even in the US) are beginning to explore the Chechen context. The tongue-in-cheek Onion seemed to nail it on the head pretty hard:

Our research shows that, while many Americans would like nothing more than to make sweeping, insensitive generalizations about these two individuals based purely on their ethnic identity, this process is largely impeded by the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans truly know next to nothing about Chechnya, including even the very barest details of what or where Chechnya is,” said lead researcher Dr. Tim Kinane, adding that a majority of American citizens are almost totally unaware of Chechen history and culture, how to locate Chechnya on a map, whether Chechnya is a country or a city or a region, or that a person from Chechnya is called a Chechen.

On a final note, those who might think be inclined to paranoia about the Earth First! Newswire becoming a front for islamofascism, rather than recognizing Chechen resistance as an indigenous land struggle, might want to take note of what Foreign Policy had to say about the alleged bombers upbringing as Chechen refugees in Kyrgyzstan:

Although recent years have brought reports of radical Islamist groups operating on a small scale in the south of Kyrgyzstan, they were virtually unknown in any region of Kyrgyzstan when the Tsarnaev family was in the country. They [Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] were not raised, therefore, in a community where radical Islam was in the air.

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9 Responses to “The Boston Marathon Bombing, Chechnya and Ecocidal Tendencies”

  1. Dee April 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    I agree that we Americans are ignorant to the things that are or have happened in the world. A great majority are ignorant to what is happening in our own country today, but we don’t know what motivates someone to justify their actions…unless they tell us. How could blowing up people in the U.S. help their cause, if it is because of the repression/ torture of their citizens?
    Or are you suggesting that they were puppets for Putin? In which case someone should watch to see if the family (in U.S.) and Russia, start to live in a better lifestyle… remembering that greed IS the root of most evil.

    I know these things: Many people have f**ked up thought processes; Governments including our own, have many of those people in them; We will only know the motivations of someone, if they are willing to tell it; and, There is only one person that each of us truly know and that is ourselves.

  2. e1848141 April 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    The best part of this article is the context given by the other news sources (I actually appreciate that part). However implying that the Boston bombings are part of an “indigenous land struggle” in supportive tones is idiotic. Anyone familiar with EF! politics can put together that
    1. EF! supports indigenous land struggles
    2. EF! tends to believe ideological violence is justified if its coming from a political underdog
    ..and come away thinking that EF believes there was some justification for what was done in Boston. I don’t think (hope) that you’re dead on the inside enough to actually think that, but that’s how you come across in the article. You could remedy this by showing the slightest hint of empathy towards Boston & what people there went through in your writing, instead of affecting a cynical eye-rolling stance about the amount of media coverage given to the event.

    • e1848141 April 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

      I re-read this and I want to say I think I misread the tone of your article, specifically the last paragraph. Overall this article does provides a good counterpoint to the inevitable islamophobic/xenophobic drum beating that’s sure to arise from US media. I think my blood was boiling from the post I read from April 15th, which I think is pretty awful, and I didn’t mentally separate them. I still think its important to show respect/share grieving with the people in Boston this early after the event

      • Rnko April 21, 2013 at 2:44 am #

        Hey e1848141,
        I’m a bit confused. What part of the April 15th article didn’t you like.? Was it the: “We should accept neither.” or was it: “We should fight against both.”????

  3. Earth First! Journal Sonoran Office April 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Damn!

  4. EF! J Collective Everglades Office April 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    In response to some of the above comments: Adding some possible social, political and ecological context doesn’t imply I have no sympathy for people impacted by these bombs. We don’t know why this incident happened, and we may never know, which the surfacing evidence about the Russian state’s involvement in the ’99 apartment bombings reminds us. All we can do is seek to understand the regional history and experiences that could potentially explain a political motive, which, yes, could fall into some sort of strategic resistance which is attempting to utilize “soft targets,” as many colonized people have done for millenia. But as Sasha pointed out yesterday, this could just as easily and likely be the act of alienated americanized youth… [Though, in hindsight, the whole gun battle aftermath is a little more ambitious and organized than the alienation-driven shootings that are practically a common occurrence at this point.]

  5. magic carpet April 22, 2013 at 4:14 am #

    Two weeks ago I watched a documentary movie called “Revolution”, about global warming and the acidification of the oceans, which left me in tears. I was so upset I almost came to blows with an acquaintance who flies jets for a living! “Revolution” is by the same person who made the movie ” Sharkwater” a couple years ago. Although there is a message of hope at the end of “Revolution”, stating something can be done to avert the total collapse of the ocean ecosystem, the antecedent information and arithmetic suggests it is too late, and the optimism is only there as an afterthought, to off-set the depression inherent to learning of the damage already done and our looming extinction. I wanted to do something to fight global warming. I considered the alternatives, including protesting, campaigning, and even anarchy and civil disobedience. I settled on writing my MP and City Councillors. Then the events in Boston on the anniversary of the American Revolutionary war happened. At one point it was announced that the younger brother, who was considered to be such a good person by all who knew him, was studying to be a Marine Biologist.
    A shudder went through my body as I realized, a budding Marine Biologist would definitely have seen “Sharkwater” and quite likely, “Revolution” as well. I wondered whether the doom and gloom of the predicted death of all life in the ocean followed by the effect that will have on human civilization was the last straw for Jahar. Did he concede to his brothers plan only after coming to the conclusion that he, as well as everyone else, were about to die anyways? Was watching “Revolution” what put him over the edge to
    becoming a revolutionary? Seeing it has drastically changed my life as I’m sure it has, and will continue to do, to others.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Boston Marathon and U.S. Drone Attacks: a Tale of Two Terrorisms | Earth First! Newswire - April 21, 2013

    […] Check out more current opinions, and analysis on the Boston bombings and possible Chechnya connection from the Earth First! […]

  2. Relevant reading suggestions for April 2013 | Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism - April 30, 2013

    […] The Boston Marathon Bombing, Chechnya, and Ecocidal Tendencies, Earth First! Newswire (20 April […]

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