to unofficial data, from the beginning of the second Chechen war about 10,000
citizens of Ichkeria crossed the border of Azerbaijan.
Now, again judging from unofficial information, not less than 5-6,000 is
left in Baku and Sumgayite. Head of
the representative office of CRI Ali Asaev asserts that this figure is
Chechens really are leaving Azerbaijan.
A small fraction goes to neighboring Georgia, a few to “far abroad”,
and the majority returns to Chechnya. They
return not because they wish to but because they have no other choice...
everyone survives on his own”
the center of attraction for Chechens who came to Baku was the representative
office of CRI in Azerbaijan. The
Russian side does not recognize the office as a plenipotentiary body.
In its turn, the representative office does not recognize the
administration of Kadirov and considers Aslan Maskhadov its sole legal leader.
structures of Azerbaijan are compelled to keep contact with the representative
office, especially when problems related to the Chechen Diaspora arise.
However, the contacts are not publicized not to irritate the Russian
Embassy. Until recently the representative office registered all
refugees arriving from Chechnya. The
lists were entered into computers, while the refugees themselves received a kind
of identification cards. On the
basis of the lists, refugees obtained humanitarian aid in the office.
This is how the aid looks as Chechens themselves describe it.
Avturkhanova, born in Grozny, is the mother of five children.
She came to Baku in July 2000. A
robbed household and destroyed to the ground home are left behind in the
motherland; and the tombs of two brothers killed by federal army.
December last year we received assistance from the representative office.
Some people were helped with food, others with money.
250,000 manats were given out for rent payment.
However, the aid has been stopped since December.
Workers of Ali Asaev state that international organizations, which
financially supported the representative office, have curtailed their activity.
The only thing that they still do is paying 250,000 manats to those, who
want to go back to Chechnya.”
does not want to return with the children and the ill husband, although she
lives in bare poverty. She says she
is worried for her children, especially the older ones.
The picture of the lifeless body of her brother, shot by a patrol on a
street of Tolstoy-Yurt settlement, does not leave the mind; shot because he did
not stop at a warning hail, though another half an hour was left before curfew
Taramova neither is willing to go back to Chechnya.
She says that people in her motherland are “absolutely defenseless in
front of a person with weapons”. Tauz
came to Baku with her husband and children in summer 1999, before the start of
the second Chechen war. She brought
11 youths selected by a special commission in Grozny for entrance to higher
education institutions of Azerbaijan.
the brief period of lively Chechen-Azerbaijan relations, when Maskhadov paid
frequent visits to Geidar Aliev, an agreement was reached on the education of
the Chechen young people in Baku universities. From
1996 to 1999 these arrangements were observed.
However, the youths Tauz brought were not as lucky.
The doors of Baku colleges were shut tightly before them.
came in August and hostilities started in Chechnya in September,” tells Tauz.
“It was over, as if cut away! The
children were not admitted to universities and some time later we were forced
out of the dormitory. Thanks to one
excellent person, deputy dean of the Medical University, Aidyn Veliev.
He took children and me to his dacha and fed us on his own account for
two months. We could not go to
Chechnya. There was such a
slaughterhouse at the beginning that these young boys would have been killed at
the first checkpoint.”
the “Gypsy” post service started operating: the relatives came to take the
boys. Aidyn Veliev personally sent
each one and gave money for the trip. Why
can’t my gifted child study? Is he “leprous”?
Adlan was 13 when he graduated from school and he writes poems and
composes music. All the North
Caucasus knew him. Even films were
made about him. Adlan was among the
11 youths selected for studies in Azerbaijan.
We appealed to the State commission on student admittance through the
channels of human rights organizations. All
our inquiries remain unanswered. Officials
hold tight defense anywhere.
to mention institutes---our children are not accepted even to schools.
They say there is an order “from above”, not written but a verbal
one. A few manage to make
arrangements for their children---some through acquaintance, some with money.
However, these children anyway are not in class registers, they are like
problem concerned practically all my conversation parties. If
assumed that 5,000 Chechen refugees settled in Baku, then children constitute
60-70% of those. At maximum, 50-60
persons study; even that is on semi-legal conditions.
I was told a number of schools, where the headmaster accepted children of
Chechen refugees at his own risk, evading the secret orders “from above”.
I was also told of other schools, where bribes are extorted from Chechens.
don’t demand anything from the government of Azerbaijan,” says Saida
Avturkhanova, “neither a refugee card, nor material support.
We understand that it has enough problems with its own refugees.
It’s a pity however that our children are deprived of the right for
education. If you’d imagine how
they desire to study!”
Tauz Taramova is trying to solve the problem at least in part.
At her committee, she organized children’s training center; she tries
to realize the idea that captivated her to create a cultural center for the
that they have something to do, somewhere to go.
So that they could feel some hope, so that they don’t get the feeling
of complete helplessness. In Baku most of the time they sit locked up in cheap private
flats. Completely torn away from
the world, away from those of their age. Parents
don’t allow the older children go out in the street, fearing provocation.”
tells that she tried to share her idea with the workers of the Chechen
representative office but was not understood. They hinted that she was doing “not her business”.
The head of the Chechen representative office did not wish to come
for a meeting at the Azerbaijan department of Helsinki Citizen Assembly, in
conjunction with which her committee operates, although he was invited three
the rehabilitation-healing educational center that Tauz created is threatened
with closing. However, even the
name sounds too loud. It is just a
tiny one-room apartment in one of micro-districts of Baku, where several dozens
of Chechen refugees bring their children in the morning.
Chechen tutors teach them Russian language, mathematics and drawing.
I entered the room, where in terrible closeness and overcrowding two teachers
were simultaneously giving lessons to several subgroups, children aged 6-7
happily smiled and greeted me in French, “Bon jour!”
Seeing my surprise, Tauz explained:
people from the local charity organization work with them two times a week.
Thus, they mistook you for another teacher.
If could know how they wait for those lessons!” Tauz
does not have means to pay another rent to the flat owner.
Meanwhile, refugees who heard of the center come in flocks--- “Take my
can I take them?” Taramova makes a helpless gesture. “We will be asked to
leave at any moment ourselves.” The
second and, probably the largest problem of Chechen refugees, is the lack of any
legal status. No one treats
seriously the scrap of paper they receive at the representative office.
The republican state committee on refugee affairs works only with the IDP
from the region of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenians.
In Baku department of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees does not
hurry to provide Chechen refugees with an appropriate status neither.
Among hundreds, maybe even thousands, of CRI citizens who applied to the
UNHCR office in the last years, only 15 to 20 people obtained a refugee card.
However, even this is mainly just a guarantee of juridical protection. In
the majority of cases the paper, received at UNHCR Baku office does not secure
any rights for obtaining financial and humanitarian aid.
Some refugees finally give in, unable to struggle with the bureaucratic
machinery of UN functionaries. Others
decide to go to the end.
Idigov, an engineer-technologist from Grozny, is among the latter.
Only ashes are left from the big house and property in the fatherland, in
evidence of which he succeeded to get an official document from the new Chechen
authorities before leaving Chechnya. The
document, by the way, is absolutely unique because, among others,
representatives of the military commandant’s office in Grozny have attested
it. On the basis of this document
Said intends to bring a lawsuit against the Russian State.
But this will be in the future. Now
he is seeking a status for himself and for his family.
went to the commissariat and filled out an application for my wife and myself.
I filled it out in January and a month later I was invited for an
interview. Supposedly, they had been checking my data during that month.
What can you check during a month
about me? Before crossing the
border I went through 20 checkpoints. Everywhere
Russian custom services checked me “with partiality”.
3 February a worker of the government, some Tomas, talked to me.
And then they say, “Wait for the answer.”
I inquire how long I should wait. They
shrug their shoulders and say, “Some people wait for years.” What
should I do during this year? Where
do I have to live and what do I have to eat?
Without a penny in my pocket and absolutely unprotected. I ask, “Did I come here as a tourist or a businessman?
Do you recognize that there is a war in Chechnya?
Do you recognize that people who cross the border of Chechnya are saving
their lives?” “Agree”, they answer. “Thus,
according to your regulations you have to provide me with the refugee status
automatically. And not make me wait
for this status for months.”
see, at the commissariat’s they have settled down nicely and don’t want to
create additional problems for themselves. 15 refugees is one thing, but a thousand is another.
How they justify their inactivity? They,
allegedly, don’t have an article in the budget for assisting Chechens.
And there is, allegedly, no mandate from the head office to deal with our
same picture is in other international organizations, which I visited in Baku.
No one has a mandate or an article in the budget.”
must not return
of any legal status makes Chechen refugees absolutely undefended in the face of
“guards of order”. Moreover,
Chechens have repeatedly become heroes of the criminal chronicle.
One group of young Chechens made a scuffle in a bar, which culminated
with a knife-fight. Although, the
majority of Chechens behave in Baku in accordance with the law, trying not to
create additional problems for the Diaspora, these cases have played an adverse
role. Baku-dwellers are
progressively more unwilling to rent their apartments to Chechens and police
becomes more captious.
Chechen families, driven to despair, go back to Chechnya. The
representative office of Ali Asaev supports them in this intention and, they say,
even provides them with money for the way back.
Moreover, the Russian government recalled Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan.
Recently, head of the department for critical situations of the Ministry
for the affairs of the Federation, Igor Zadvornov visited Baku.
At a press conference in the Russian Embassy Zadvornov declared that
currently the Ministry of Federation in conjunction with the government of the
Chechen Republic is preparing lists of affected citizens in order to render help.
The measures include reconstruction of dwellings and payment of
consideration for the lost property. However,
only those Chechens who return to Ichkeria can count on this help.
In addition, they will have to get registered at the local internal
affairs structures upon arrival.
heard these promises during the first war,” Mayrbek Taramov says. “At
Zavgaev’s time maximum 20 people received compensations.
The rest was stolen away. Now,
even if some money is allocated, everything will be once again distributed
between the puppet administration of Kadirov and Russian officials, and refugees
will be left with crumbs.
the tragedy of Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey is that upon
their return to the fatherland they will run under filtration and will be
subject to the fiercest persecution, because in majority these people are
adherents of the freedom and independence of the Chechen republic.
Anyway, how can Kadirov guarantee the security of his compatriots when
his and his supporters’ lives are attempted upon every day?”
way back to fatherland is closed for Taramov.
He is among the avid opponents of Kadirov and wages a struggle against
the present Chechen administration quite actively.
By all possible means he continues to publish the newspaper
“Kavkaski Vestnik” (“Caucasian Bulletin”).
It was founded in Grozny in 1997 as a printed press release of the Union
of Caucasian Journalists. Now the
newspaper is published practically illegally.
It is illegally imported to the territory of the Northern Caucasus, where
it travels from hand to hand. The
newspaper also has its site in the Internet: www.kvestnik.org. When asked where
the newspaper is printed and who finances it, Mayrbek mysteriously smiles.
Still, he does not hide that the edition has many large difficulties;
thus, it is printed irregularly.
to the problems of Chechen refugees, in Mayrbek’s opinion, the legal status
for this category should be sought on the international level.
Said Idigov adheres to the same opinion.
Presently, with the assistance of international organization ISAR, he is
founding a NGO in order to have a juridical basis to defend legally and socially
addition, Said is creating an initiative group from the citizens of CRI who have
managed to register at Baku office of UNHCR and are waiting for their status for
months. They presented their
demands to UNHCR in a written form. They
want to involve local press and electronic media to allow maximum people to be
informed about their struggle with the UN functionaries.
most brutal in the contemporary world local war is being waged on the territory
of Chechnya. The people who are
escaping from the terrors of the war and saving their children are being denied
the right to receive a refugee status. Will
you understand, please: From a thousand of people who return to Chechnya every
second one will be killed, crippled, get into a filtration camp, get a decease,
step on a landmine; this can happen on the road, at the arrival point, if not
today, then tomorrow, in a month. That is, at least 50% will go under slaughter!”
told the same at the Chechen office, “You have to do everything to save your
compatriots and not squeeze them out of Azerbaijan!” That’s why we demand
that every Chechen, every inhabitant of the Chechen Republic, who left its
territory receives a status of refugee, a mandate protecting him/her in
juridical and economic way without any bureaucratic delays.
We will try to achieve this by all accessible means, up to pickets and
demonstrations in front of Baku office of the UN.
I had a chance to talk to in these days was deprived practically of
everything--- health, property, relatives and close people--- by this war.
They don’t demand any special comforts and privileges.
They only thing they are defending is the right for life. They don’t want to return to the place, from where they
miraculously managed to escape and where death again awaits them at every step.