Too much media censorship has blurred our only window on the Russian-Chechen conflict, in North Caucasia. Newspapers do not headline the episodes of this bloody war, and the number of causalities is almost non-existent. Most wars and conflicts around the world are turned into virtual wars by the spread of images and news reports, which confirm their happening, making them ‘real’ and ‘evident’ for the world’s eye. The war in Chechnya is real. It is still happening. But it is virtually and visually absent, and therefore not ‘real’.
Peace and Human Right activists are protesting, rallying and campaigning against the horrors of war in many places around the world, such as Palestine and elsewhere, forgetting that the same atrocities are being committed, by the Russians, in Chechnya, too. The coverage of the war in Chechnya should progress to another, more active phase. Instead of being merely a war, it should develop to a war of images. The dull text reports of the war should be adjoined with images of destruction and life loss, appearing frequently in newspapers, and made within reach to provoke Human Right organizations to take an immediate action. With no International Observers, or adequate media coverage, the dreadful war continues to intensify. Not to mention the absence of witnesses to report the violations of basic human rights.
The Russians have learned two marvelous techniques from the Israelis, and are now putting it into practice, in their war against the Chechens. The first technique deals with the verbal portrayal of this war. The Chechens were first referred to as ‘rebels’. But now they have become something even worse. Now they are ‘terrorists’. The Israelis, however, should take credits for this terminological invention. After the September 11 tragedy that had befallen on the United States, Israel became acutely aware of how to make good use of such a distraction that has occurred at a time in which the International community was harshly criticizing Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians. People suddenly started talking about terrorism and the terrorists ‘out there’ and how they seriously jeopardize the lives of innocent people. A multilateral consensus was then reached, in which case terrorists were to be eliminated. To justify their aggression, Israelis termed Palestinian freedom fighters as terrorists, forcing the International community to partially accept this conception. The International community has also accepted Russia’s counterfeit justification of using excessive force against ‘terrorists’, especially after Russia had declared its absolute support for the United States in its war against terrorism.
The second technique has a practical effect in war. What Israel calls ‘Targeted Killing’ has lately become the most popular aspect of Russia’s savageness. Only it is clearer than its Israeli counterpart, describing the targeted ones as ‘men of productive age’. Israel is obsessed with the underlying assumption that killing the Palestinian youth would kill the persistence and the determination of the people. Russia, similarly, is trying out this method by targeting young men, in an attempt to diminish the male population, and accordingly weaken the Chechen resistance. In this case, I believe, Russia has miscalculated the possible consequences, for it has blindly followed the Israeli example, overlooking the great shock that Israel had to endure after a number of suicidal attacks against its civilians, carried out by female suicide bombers.
Powerful countries with huge military capacities, such as Russia, do not realize that any rightful resistance can not be easily hampered. Not when it is a guerrilla war. The people’s longing for freedom and their strong means of resisting the occupation, in spite of it being primitive, serve as stimulants to keep them from being defeated. Russia might soon find itself involved in a case of human genocide if it continues to use excessive force against the Chechens. The wiping out of a human race is one thing history marks and future never forgives.
Mira Al-Hussein is a student of International Studies at Zayed University, in Dubai.