Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Bruce Willis, where were you when Beslan needed you?

On this beautiful rainy Tuesday, which happens to be my bday, there is only one topic that I find worthy of discussion, the tragedy that occurred in Beslan, North Ossetia.

As pretty much everyone, I was extremely shocked by the event in School No1 of Beslan, mostly because of the fact that children were used as hostages. But, as the crisis was ending, and news arrived that the terrorists were shooting on fleeing children, I was brought to feeling something that deeply scared me. I was feeling anger and hatred towards an entire people, only because of the nationality of the attackers. Within 12 hours of the end of the siege, had I had the power to, I would have ordered a large scale attack or at least retaliation on Chechen civilians.

Pretty scary, ah.

After a good sleep and some rational thinking, I managed to chase these demons from my head, but the actions of these terrorists sure had touched me. Probably more than most people here (Canada) because of my personal background. I asked my mother why there were so many people in the school for the first day, and she explained to me that we used to do the same thing in Bulgaria when I was only a child. On the first day of classes, school children, their younger and older brother and sisters, their parents and even grand parents would gather at the school for a day of festivities.

And these terrorists exploited this family event, turning a celebration of education and culture to a nightmare (as you can see, I definitely haven’t forgiven these people for what they did).

I can somewhat comprehend the motives that pushed the terrorists to do what they did. Most probably they all had missing or killed family members, their country is in a state of total destruction and desolation, and they simply have no future to look to. But it is such a primary and inefficient method of bringing change. If anything, the anti-Chechen sentiment in Russia will grow to unprecedented levels, and give Putin carte-blanche for his methods of dealing with the conflict. Unfortunately, of one, the Russians are a very proud and nationalistic people (or maybe fortunately, because after all that is what stopped Hitler only over 50 years ago), of two, they are now lowered to the level of secondary world power and finally they are have a much lower standards of life that they would want. Combine all these factors, and the recent events, and you have the recipe for a strong, generalized and long lasting anti-Chechen popular feeling. It’s easy to polarize people to extremes when they need to take their minds off their own problems. And this is exactly what seems to be happening : Hatred of the Chechens was strong enough before last week. Beslan will have intensified it and thereby further legitimised Mr Putin's refusal to compromise.
(full article here)

Were the terrorists hoping to achieve something concrete when they set up their attack? I doubt it. But they obviously believed that all other means of approaching their problem were exhausted and have resolved to extreme measures.

The saddest side of this story is that once again, the innocent and poor civilians are paying for the actions of the rich elite, which was in no way affected. It is the rulers and the individuals influencing the Kremlin that make the decision to have the Russian army (a hord of innocent young men) remain and fight in Chechnya, and once again, mostly because of oil strategic interests. Why didn’t the terrorists take their frustration out directly on the Kremlin; that is what I am asking them.

Sadly, in the short term, this attack will only result into mores suffering for Chechen civilians. Furthermore, North Ossetia is a mostly Christian republic surrounded by Muslim republics; the events of the last few days can only have disastrous effects and contribute to the instability of the region (the Russian government has already sealed off the border of North Ossetia in an attempt to prevent the conflict from spreading).

I strongly suggest checking out the three main web sites set up by the BBC to cover the events in Beslan here. The pictures are particularly poignant.

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