Why the horror in Beslan?

Category: Europe, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Terrorism Views: 5710

What made them animals? What motivated them to drive so far from their homes, to spend weeks planning their assault and, finally, to execute it in such a bloody and ruthless manner? Does the answer really lie just in their flawed and twisted nature? 

What words do you use to express the horror of what happened in a Beslan school? How can any words capture the total awfulness, the total senselessness, the total tragedy of what happened there? 

How do you describe the scenes of bloodied, naked children fleeing in terror; row after row of bodies; grieving parents and mass funerals? How do you even begin to understand the feelings of Beslan's residents? There are no words. 

Who does one blame for such an atrocity? The terrorists, of course, who carried it out. 'Hostage takers' - the term used in most media reports - is far too benign for such people. 

Accounts of the 50-plus hour ordeal coming out reveal a group for whom killing was like coughing - it took that little thought and was that easily forgotten. The values (if any) of the terrorists who seized control of the Middle School-1 were so completely alien to what we call 'civilization' and 'humanity' that many have (justifiably) called them animals. 

Who were the terrorists? The media and most analysts pointed the finger at Chechen militants close to Shamil Basayev, notorious Chechen rebel fighter. But Russian government spokesmen blamed foreign Islamic terrorists. 

They claimed that ten of those killed (from among the terrorists) were Arab. Such claims come as no surprise: far more convenient to blame international Islamic terrorism and Al Qaeda - and thereby join Bush's war on terror and win global sympathy - than to acknowledge that the problem is a domestic one between the Russian government and a recalcitrant republic. 

Weigh up the evidence for both arguments - international Al Qaeda versus Chechen nationalists - and that for the latter is overwhelming. The similarities between Beslan and the Moscow theatre hostage-taking two years ago, the geographical location (in the north Caucasus), hostage accounts that terrorists spoke with Chechen accents - and, most of all, the history of Chechen violence against Russia. 

In the past few days alone there have been two attacks (not counting Beslan): a bomb in Moscow that killed ten people, and suicide bombings that downed two civilian planes within minutes of each other. Recall also some of the other statements made by Moscow - that there were only 350 hostages in the school, seven terrorists... and its credibility has to be questioned. 

But even if the Russian government is telling the truth and some foreigners were involved, this was still a Chechen operation: executed by Chechens and stemming from Chechen anger against Moscow. 

Any internationalization of the Chechen conflict, through the induction of foreign fighters, is a consequence of what is happening in Chechnya: it is not the cause. 

Why did Chechen terrorists seize Beslan's Middle School-1 and cause the deaths of over 300 people, half of them children? The simple answer is because they are animals, sub-humans, killers. Of course they are - were (most of them are dead). 

But is that sufficient explanation? What made them animals? What motivated them to drive so far from their homes, to spend weeks planning their assault and, finally, to execute it in such a bloody and ruthless manner? Does the answer really lie just in their flawed and twisted nature? 

If nature alone could produce such monsters, there would be many more Beslans. No, for the full answer you have to look at nurture too: the environment in which people grow up. 

In the case of young Chechens, for over a decade now that environment has been one of war, conflict and terrible suffering. This is the other face of Chechnya - the one obscured by terrorists like those who seized the school and the Moscow theatre. It is a face as grief-stricken, as traumatized and as sad as those you see in Beslan today. 

Chechen suffering dates back many decades: no need to go through all that history - just start from 1994 when Boris Yeltsin's post-USSR Russia invaded the republic. Killing and destruction followed. 

Fast-forward to 1997 and the democratically elected government of Aslan Maskhadov struggles to establish order in a state radicalized and divided by conflict. Move on to 1999 and this time it is Vladimir Putin's Russia that is going to war in Chechnya. More killing, more destruction, more division, more radicalization. 

Vladimir Putin does not encourage human rights groups to count the dead in Chechnya: if he did, the figures would quickly outstrip the Beslan dead - many thousand-fold. Russia's war in Chechnya has been a dirty one, fought with little respect for civilian life and property or the rules of war. Many innocents have perished. 

The Beslan terrorists' demands stemmed directly from their homeland's bloody history: the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, the release of Chechen militants, and Chechen independence. Can anyone still believe that this was terrorism motivated by Al Qaeda's hatred of the West? 

Vladimir Putin's war made him President, but that was all. It did not achieve any of the objectives trumpeted by the Kremlin: it did not win peace in Chechnya, it did not crush nationalist aspirations in the republic, and it did not make Russians secure. 

Quite the opposite: it turned Chechnya into a raging fire, it fuelled nationalist aspirations and - as demonstrated all too visibly in Beslan - it brought terror to ordinary Russians. One could have said: 'Seldom can a policy have proven to be so disastrous' - were it not for George W. Bush's even more calamitous 'war on terror'. 

As Russia buries its dead, it is all too easy to plot revenge, to strike out, to hit back with force. But that will only exacerbate the problem. It should be obvious now - not just from what is happening in Chechnya and Russia, but also in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine - that the answer to terrorism does not lie in force. 

Security, yes, but not force: hitting back at civilian populations who had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. Such policies only serve as recruiting campaigns for the terrorists, swelling the ranks of suicide bombers. 

If you want to end terrorism you have to look beyond the blood, the mangled bodies, the horror and anger. You have to go to the root causes and address those. 

What drives ordinary people to become terrorists? Why are they angry? What are the aggravating factors? Most important, what can bring them back into the mainstream? It is these questions that have to be answered if terrorism is ever to be brought under control. [Eradicating it is perhaps too much to hope for in these bloody times.] 

Has Putin learnt from his mistakes? Will the 350-odd funerals taking place in Beslan cause him to rethink his policy and try a different approach? Listen to his speech after the Beslan hostage crisis ended so tragically, and it is clear he has not. 

Change comes from pressure: domestic and/or international. It is too early to gauge whether Beslan will cause Russians to end their love affair with Putin. Certainly there is anger at the lies told by government officials, and at the lack of preparedness of the authorities. 

Anger too that it is taking days just to find out how many people are missing - let alone what happened to them. But will this immediate public outrage become focused on the Russian President? Given that most Russians get their news from state-controlled television, and given the general suppression of free speech under Putin, there is every chance that the Russian President will survive. 

International pressure is one factor that has been conspicuously absent from the Chechen issue. The war on terror launched by George Bush after 9/11 provided the perfect cover for Vladimir Putin to continue his own war against Chechen nationalists. 

When the 'leader of the free world' is happily bombing civilians and occupying countries without any legal mandate, who will question what Russia does in backstage Chechnya? When 'terrorism' is used to justify targeted assassinations, illegal detention and torture, how can anyone accuse Putin of violating human rights? 

Will the situation change after Beslan? Will the international community realize that condemning terrorism and reacting with knee-jerk force is not the answer? Will it look for the root causes of the Beslan tragedy? Will it acknowledge that Russian - and in particular Putin's - policies have much to do with what happened in Beslan? Will it finally start demanding that Russia halt its strong-arm tactics in Chechnya and look for political solutions? Listening to the rhetoric coming out of the Republican (Kerry-bashing) Convention in New York, this seems wishful thinking. 

Until change comes, Russia and the world should be ready for another Beslan - or worse. 

Dr. Iffat Idris can be reached at [email protected]

Source: Dawn

  Category: Europe, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Terrorism
Views: 5710

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Older Comments:
Romen Chander or whatever your name is. I have read on this site numerous verbal assaults on Islam and Muslims. Why come here it you have nothing constructive to add (and this goes for extremist on both ends of the spectrum!)? It is your disdain and aggression toward us that fuels the emotions! The muslims will not taste success until they heed the warnings of their Lord and His final Messenger (saws). It has nothing to do with the backwardness of Islam or the superiority of Western powers. And as a Muslim I don't care if there is a clash of civilizations, Islam is opposed to any other form of life and is better than any other religion, or system, or lifestyle. That does not mean we attempt to irradicate these other groups, either verbally or militarily, and we show tolerance, but naturally, as those who are blessed by Allahu ta'aala we should feel more blessed and honored and on a higher status than non-Muslims. Therefore, stop being a ligthening rod for much of the anger and irrational, emotion charged discourse which erupts here.
PS Muslims wake up! These so-called leaders which kill innocent people and wage cowardly terrorist warfare have done nothing to better the situation of our brothers and sisters under the thumb of oppression. they have probably been responsible for the killing of more muslims than kuffar. We need to increase or prayers and du'aa, which will bring more benefit (to them and) us, than mouthing off on this website! I do not blame the poor muslims in these places for all of their actions, because much of it is fostered by their environmental conditions. However, we all need to return to the Book and the Sunnah and the understandinmg of the earliest generations to have Allah push us back to the height of Islam's glory.
As salaamu alaikum

Assalamu alaikum (peace be unto you). A number of victims at the school in Beslan were Muslim. For whatever reason, only a few people in the media seem to consider that aspect of the tragedy worth mentioning.


Also, "hostage taking" has been practiced by both sides, in the conflict. In some cases, federal agencies have actually demanded ransom from the separatists, in exchange for the return of family members. Federal authorities have predictably explained that the kidnappings save lives - presumably the lives of their security personnel, if not necessarily the lives of ordinary citizens.


Russia is indeed reaping the harvest of its own toil. Where were the Un, the world, and those who proffess humanity when over the last decade, Chenchnya has been reduced to the rubble that it is now. A proud nation of some 2 million people almost a decade ago, reduced to only 800,000 with many women and children raped and pillaged, their homes destroyed, their youth put in concentration camps.

How does a young person react when this is his plight? Can any civilised person please reply?

Is it ok to kill Chechen children, rape their women, imprison their young and then cry over what they have done to their enemy?

Do i condone such action? Never, but to stop further bloodshed of the innocent, Russia msut first and foremost stop their terrorist policies in Chechnya and the world, led by the UN must categorically demand that Russia change its barbaric tactics in Chechnya.

As Muslims, I do not see any reason to apologise for my faith everytime some desperate victim unleashes his/her pent-up anger at their perpetrator. Those who brand anyone like that a 'terrorist' then let them slap the face of a passer-by in the street and wait for a response!

We reap what we sow. Never be amazed to get tomatoes if you plant tomatoe seeds.

Peace and mercy be upon all God's creatures.

Yes you have to be an animal to be insesitive if the oppressors butchers mercilessly kill your children joking to have killed future freedom fighters (Mujahid). No matter how helpless the oppressed masses are they will stand up against the Pharaohs of the time.

The oppressed will offer to negotiate for peace but the armed to teeth killer Pharaoh's will not spare even their own people as they did in Moscow theater and Beslan school.

May God curse be on oppressors, Ameen.

May God bring peace and prosperity on land, Ameen.

Personally, I find myself essentially in agreement with 30 of the article's 31 paragraphs. Offhand why should a guest announce that an entire feast was unpalatable if no more than one or two dishes actually seemed unappetizing? Or might it perhaps have simply been too tiring to read through the entire article before submitting comments, which in some cases approached the 2000 character limit? I apologize for my manner of address - and may you each receive your Lord's mercy, blessings and peace.

Here is a link to an article (only two paragraphs in length!) that perhaps reveals something of the moral character and support base of Chechnya's recently assassinated pro-Moscow president, Akhmad Kadyrov.

Here is a link to yet another article (admittedly twice as long as the other article) regarding further instances of "hostage taking" - again by Russian federalists rather than by Chechen separatists.

My hope is that neither article will prove too taxing of a read for the Muslim - insha'Allah (God willing). Wassalam (and peace).

Sorry for being extremely harsh.

You muslims don't get it.

A person even with the brain of a bird could not have thought out DELIBERATELY targeting a grade school with grenades and guns anfd taking children as hostages; how could have Chechens who call themselves humans not only think but even execute their plan is beyond my small brain. Quit blaming Putin in this case; if Chechens had not taken guns/grenades to school, the tragedy would never have happended in the first place. They had plenty of other targets to choose from. The author who claims to have a PhD (probably from a western university) cannot even differentiate between means and ends. He writes "have for the full answer you have to look at nurture too: the environment in which people grow up". Yes, true. But in any society, even in the most extreme circumstances, nobody DELIBERATELY targets children. Take the case of Black people in South Africa. First they lived in virtual slavery for over 100 years; and then under the most humiliating conditions under apartheid for another 50 years; but they never ever targeted children; even Apartheid regime, the most brutal kind one can think of, never targeted children.

Who are Chechens going to target next? Children in nurseries, Hospitals for Children where mothers go to deliver babies or target pregnant women and slit their stomachs so that no children are born!!! How low can you go!!! I thought there was 'Glorious Islamic Civilzation'; probably, Beslan was the modern chapter in the history of Glorious Islamic Civilzation.

The gulf between muslims and non-muslims is on the increase; Clash of Civilzations is going on. Don't expect muslims to win it easily (if at all); after the history of last 300 years finds muslims losing almost all wars.

I think that both sides are blinded by their own selfish brands of fanatacism. Why do individuals and groups see fit to force others to be just like them? Why can't two groups who hate each other just leave each other alone?

No, they are not animals. Animals are Muslims without free choice. There is nothing as monstruous as this in the whole history of the animal kingdom; except that involving homo sapience. It is wrong to attribute an animal identity to a wrong action or a crime. Animals are anything but criminals or terrorists or anything foul that belong only to the human nature. The most successful and fierce predator on the planet is the homo sapience. Whether people have this nature or is nurtured is a philosophical mind quest. Certain circumstances override our humanity, for most of us. We had French, Irish, Palestinian, Ukranian, etc., terrorists as well as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindi, Sikh, etc., terrorists. If we look in to the causes of terrorism as a religious thing it should be restricted to one nation where one religion is oppressed,e.g., India, Sikh vs Hindi or Muslim vs Hindi. If a terrorism reality is across borders then nationalism is more likely to be involved,e.g.,Russia and Chechnya. It is not a religious issue. There are Muslim Russians and there are other provinces that are Muslim,e.g., the Volga Tatars, Muslims in Siberia, etc. Chechens are fighting for independance, that's the issue there, and in order to achieve this goal everything will be used to mobilize the populace: ethnicity, history, religion, philosophy, ideology, etc. The means to get their message across was as desperate as their situation in Chechnya. They had their relatives including small children killed by the Russian forces indiscriminately. Their young men are jailed on an assumption that they could form a strong renewed anti-Russian force. So guys, put your thinking hats on and see the root of the problem. I didn't say it was right, I just say that if you killed somebodies chickens expect your barn on fire as an aftermath of your own doing.
Peace out!

I agree with the author. What happened in Beslan was horrible, and it's diffucult to understand how someone can look at the faces of the children and then kill them.

Yet I remember a french document about Chechnya I saw around 6 months ago. The entire hour I kept crying and one hour after, about the equally horrible things that has happened in chechnya for many years without any notice from the international community.

I can't there for understand how the Russians can accept their government to kill young boys just because they might fight for their independence if they are allowed to grow up; to kill and kidnap people and then ask if the families want to pay 5000 EUR to get the body. The people who are living in Croznyi can find beheaded bodies of men and women in the outskirts of their cities. The women who don't have any male relatives left to protect them, are every night scared of the soldiers of Russian army who might come to rape, torture and kill them.

So, the attack on innocent children is terrible, but also the attacks of the Russian army on the civilians and children in chechnya is equally terrible.

I can understand the suffering of the people and their despair because no one hears their cries that have gone on for years. At some point the human beings can't turn the other cheek anymore and just hope for the best from the future. It's despair, suffering and hopelessness that creates desperate acts that create more suffering and hopelessness. It's a vicious cycle that once started it's almost impossible to stop it.

What goes around comes around....and for that we all will cry.

Who has noticed the deaths of 40,000 Chechen children during the years of Russia's war against Chechnya? Where were then all those who today have brought down their righteous anger on the 'untermenschen' who are holding schoolchildren hostage in Beslan? Is it not hypocrisy to be upset about the possible deaths of some children and remain indifferent to the deaths of other? Propaganda is our government's job. President Putin says that his main concern in the present situation is the fate of the hostages. This was what he said two years ago during the events of Nord-Ost, and then Russian special forces gassed 120 hostages to death in cold blood and fired control shots in the heads of 40 terrorists. Chechen mujahidins still believe that Putin will not be prepared to kill all the hostages again, especially children, that he will begin negotiations and political resolution of the Russian-Chechen conflict, that the war could be stopped as it had been by Basaev in Boudyonnovsk. But today's president had an altogether different schooling, whereby he had not been taught compassion, justice or law. He had been taught to achieve the ends by whatever means, and will continue to do so even at a cost of children's lives. Why, having taken the lives of thousands of Chechen children, would he suddenly stop at having to take the lives of hundred and fifty young Ossetians?
There was a simple and sound solution to the horrific situation in Beslan: stop Russian terror in Chechnya to spare the lives of the hostages, or at least, begin negotiations with Maskhadov's government in exchange for the release of the children. It must be understood that the terrorists' only demand -- to stop the war in Chechnya and give peace to its people -- is concrete enough and absolutely justified.
It is impossible to justify terror, especially against children. But it is possible to understand the reasons. It would have been sanctimonious to deny the fact that Chechens' response to terror is terror.


On this photograph are not the children who have died in Beslan. On this photograph are bodies of the Chechen children who died by the hand of the Russian army in autumn 1999. Their deaths did not warrant the call-up of the UN Security Council, and Dr. Roshal did not rush to the scene of the tragedy with water and medicines to try and persuade terrorists to spare children's lives. They were Chechen children, and Russia did not shudder at the horror of the crime it committed. It simply did not notice.

The author is undecided and presents his hypocritic views like many others who are belivers of the BBC's, Pravada's...

May Allah's curse be upon the oppressors, Ameen. May Allah bless the small, weak, oppressed... people of Chechnya with victory, Ameen.

It's a shame that the author to keep his pen in line with the oppressors degrades the heroic fighters of the oppressed Chechens. The author and readers should refrain from such acts and refer to Quranic verses to support the oppressed people of the world (be they Muslims or not).

In today's unipolar world biased media rules and there is no such thing as independent reporting or true journalism. Not to mention that it never existed in Pakistan. The author is also a firm believer in Pravada or BBC or ... medias of the world. He would not be writing such conclusions defaming the heroic struggle of Chechens if he would refer to the Quranic verses about verification of news before spreading/ propagating it.
May Allah (swt) destroy the oppressors and its allies, Ameen. May Allah (swt) give patience, protection and victory to all the oppressed citizens of the world, Ameen.

May Allah bless the victims...and their families.


I agree yet the view and hatred of Islam or certain ethnicities by others is a worldwide problem. This started from the rebellious one :'Iblis' and continues today. This unconfounded evil is part of our 'nafs' and praying not just for ourselves helps.These evils we face are not new and we should act not just pray within our limitations of laws of countries, to make change else evil will grow unchecked.May our CREATOR ALLAH(SWT) give us guidence and make it easy for us to fulfill as HE wills.INSHA-ALLAH

I like the balanced wiev of the author. He states that those kidnappers are animals. Well, this is kind of true. He also states that these kind of people were not born this way. So true, they don't come out of vacuum. Humans are tabula rasas when they are born and a great deal of the scenery that is painted on that rasa during your life comes from the outside world. And when the outside world happens to look like hell, the scenery of your mind easily ends up looking like hell too. Still, this ain't excuse to spread that hell on, especially not on those like the children at the school who had NOTHING to do with the chechen nightmares.
Putin plays one of the key roles in this tragedy. He could change the route of things to come. He surely has done some good things in Russia too. He don't like much of the mafiamen who were running multiple things earlier. He has clamped their impact down a lot. Some other good things have occured with him too.
But when it comes to nationality politics in Russia the good news end. He is devouted russophile and don't respect much other nationalities within Russian boundaries. And in Chechenia he is making a terrible mistake and sin. I don't know at what stage his eyes open to this part of reality. Soon. I hope.

We should all beg Allah (SWT) to ease the pain that our brothers and sisters in Chechnia are feeling.
Muhammad(PBH) said that whoever commit such acts as killing innocent women and children, are not from us. I take this statement literally, and not because you are arab, means that you are a muslim.
The people of Chechnia have been fighting and wating patiently for their freedom for many years. They are now being used as pawns for a larger war on islam.
We must not come up with any excuse for what happened here, for by doing so muslims and islam gets the blame not the Chechen people. The basic,basic,basic.. tenents of islam were broken here and I don't think that any muslim would do this.