For about a month now, the mighty Russian armed forces have been shelling and killing the Chechen people indiscriminately, repeating their carnage of about 100,000 lives during the 1994-96 war. Yet the world champions of human rights and even their brethren in faith -- the Muslim community -- seem to continue business as usual with Russia.
After a month of siege on the tiny republic and after closing in on its capital Grozny with multipronged air, artillery, and missile attacks, the Russian forces are set ready to finish with the Chechen resistance once and for all. According to the Russian government itself, a mighty force of 100,000 Russian elite troops with heavy artillery and air power are engaged in erasing whatever the Chechens have reconstructed from the rubble of the previous war.
Just on October 22, Russian forces randomly launched some 10 missiles into Chechnya, killing more than 140 and wounding about 400 men, women, and children at a market place, a hospital, and other areas of Grozny. Keep in mind that the Russians have not only blocked transports in and out of Grozny but also cut off electricity and water supplies in the city, and there are no lifesaving medicines and hospital facilities to treat such a huge number of wounded people.
Compared to the 1994-96 war when international journalists reported from inside Chechnya, this time Russia has effectively barred even Russian journalists from reporting from near their theater of action. Instead, the Russian government's Information Center from Moscow, a thousand miles away from the scene, ration out propaganda on the crisis. In a style reminiscent of their Serbian brethren during the Bosnian war, the Russian officials have said that the attacks that killed or maimed 640 civilians in Grozny were the explosions of the Chechen "gangs" themselves. In a similar manner, they have tried to manage their image despite the gory evidence trickling out of Chechnya.
Indeed, it is a strange world in which the perpetrators of terror are listened to and even sanctified and supported. Meanwhile, the victims of terror -- those whose homes are bombed day and night, those who are killed in their sleeping beds, shopping bazaars, buses and hospitals, and those who are denied the fundamental right of liberty and freedom in their own land -- are called "terrorists!"
Despite the demonstrated high ethos and aplomb with which the Chechen leadership strove to tell the world of their people's human condition since 1994, the world public continues to ignore their stories and concerns. Other than a few mild protests or expressions of concern from the Western capitals and the UN Secretary General, there have been no significant attempts at pressuring or coercing the Russian government into respecting the sanctity of human lives and property.
More unfortunately, the cries of the Chechen Muslims are going largely unheard in the Muslim world. The major Muslim media outlets have failed even to recycle the wire news about the atrocities in Chechnya. Out of a random sample of ten major newspapers of the Muslim countries which I reviewed, five did not report the news of Oct. 22 carnage in the Chechen marketplace, and the five others that carried the news didn't give prominence to it. In contrast, many Western newspapers have done much better as many of them "broke" the news in their front pages and analyzed it in their commentary sections.
Also, few Muslim governments have uttered a word against the Russian atrocities. Other than few individual or small group expressions of frustration, there have been no organized protests against the Russian aggression even in Muslim countries where demonstrations and assembly are allowed.
Ignoring the cries of humanity in Chechnya in this fashion is definitely tantamount to condoning the Russian crimes against humanity. It is a shame for humanity, a shame for the Muslim governments and organizations not to protest or orchestrate other forms of intervention in the bloody crisis.
It seems, humanity at large and the Muslim community in particular are content to say: "Bleed, oh Chechnya, while we sleep, hoping the bloods of your sons and daughters will someday cleanse our conscience."
Mohammad A. Auwal is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and is a regular columnist for iviews.com