An International Conference Held in Georgia
On November 19th-21st, an international conference called, “Hidden Nations, Enduring Crimes: The North Caucasus Between Past and Future” was held in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Among the high profile guests, Waynakh Online also attended the conference.
This is the second international conference which was funded in part by the Western political analysis center, the Jamestown Federation, Ilia State University and International School for Caucasus Studies in Georgia. The first conference had been held in March 2010 in Tbilisi and accepted a resolution which demanded Georgia to recognize Circassian genocide.
The second conference called, “Hidden Nations, Enduring Crimes: The North Caucasus Between Past and Future” was held in the Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel in Tbilisi. The two day conference began on November 19th with a welcome reception. Mr. Gigi Tevzadze, the rector of Ilia State University, who hosted the conference, noted in his opening remarks that it continued to convene the first conference held last spring and was successful. Mr. Glen Howard, the president of the Jamestown Foundation, thanked all delegates who came from 15 different countries who created a conference that was larger than its predecessor and was an opportunity for participants to create new partnerships. Mr. Ghia Nodia, the director of the International School for Caucasus Studies, said that the third conference would be even more widespread and that he could not decide if it would be more honorable to be involved in hosting the conference or more exciting to take part as a participant.
On November 20th, the first day of the conference was opened by Mr. Gigi Tevzade’s welcome speech and introductions of Mr. Ghia Nodia and Mr. Glen Howard.
The first section of the conference was “assessing the results of the first international conference”. Mr. Nugzar Tsiklauri, a Georgian parliamentarian, pointed out that they are also a victim of occupation and organizing these kinds of events are a historical responsibility of Georgia. “The Russian state continues its false propaganda about Georgia’s peaceful policy. But today, in the region of North Caucasus, journalists and human rights defenders are murdered; intellectuals are forced to leave the territory, and the violence is ongoing in the region. All of this is conducted by the Russian state,” said Mr. Tsiklauri. He also said, “I want to render my thanks to all participants, who believe that peace and independence in the Caucasus are important”.
Mr. Mairbek Vatchagaev, a historian and specialist on the North Caucasus, evaluated the current situation in the region and the effects of the first international conference, which was held in Tbilisi in last spring. “Georgia became the first state in the international community to speak about the genocide in the Caucasus. Russia denies it with its politically based reasoning. Today, the situation in the Caucasus is changing. Russia has failed to be center of the Caucasus. Now Tbilisi has become the center of the Caucasus. The new visa free policy for the citizens of these North Caucasus republics is an expression of the Georgian leadership’s support. I would like to say that it is really welcomed by the people of the North Caucasus. As a follow-up event to the first conference in March 2010, here over two days, we will discuss the current human rights situation in the region and we will also show that we remember what has happened in the Caucasus in the last century,” said Mr. Vatchagaev.
Mr. Merab Chukhua, a Georgian Caucasiologist professor, spoke about the Russian genocide against Chechen people in recent history. “The term of Circassian and Chechens genocides have been started to discuss more often in the world since the last conference in March 2010. The Chechen population has seen itself cut in half since the beginning of the 20th century. The entire Chechen people were forcibly exiled in 1944. It was a real tragedy, 750 thousand people exiled from their homeland. Half of this population died during the deportation. Exactly 60 years later from the 1944 deportation, in 1994, after the declaration of Chechen state’s independence, Russia followed their ancestor’s way and decided to deport the whole Chechen nation once again. This time the order was signed by Boris Yeltsin. But the plan was appeared. Then Russian military forces entered to Ichkeria territory. During the first Russian-Chechen war, more than 150 thousand civilians were killed by Russians. After the famous peace agreement between Russia and Ichkeria in 1997, Russia started a new war against Chechen people in 1999. In the first days of Russian occupation, the Russian army used prohibited weapons in Chechnya against Chechen civilians. During the military actions of Russia, Chechen people were disappeared, Chechen people were murdered with political bases, and an economical disaster occurred in the region. However, before the war, there wasn’t any single AIDS case in Chechnya; but today, thousands of AIDS cases are seen there,” said Mr. Chukhua. The Georgian professor mentioned also the situation of two Chechen asylum seekers who are awaiting their exile from Slovakia to Russia. He gave the Murad Gasayev example and asked: “After his exile from Spain to Russia, he was not found guilty in court, but he disappeared. Where is this person now? So how can we say that we can believe the political guarantees of Russia? Chechen people whether they go far away, whether they hide, whether they try to establish a new life for themselves; Russia follows them and doesn’t let them to live in peace”.
Mr. Bezhan Khorava, a historian Sokhumi State University, explained that Russia was aggressive about the Kabardey and other North Caucasus people and began to deport and expel Circassians barbarically, what happened can only be described as genocide. With the Olympic Games, that are about to be held in Sochi, we have to remember that the people of the Ubikhs lived in this place.
The keynote speaker of the first day was Lord Frank Judd, who is a member of the British Parliament. Mr. Judd presented his own observations about his last visit in Chechnya in February 2010. Mr. Judd mentioned that the media is not free there. He said that he met many ordinary courage people in Chechnya and Ingushetia. He described his visit as a great experience and spoke about his Chechnya report which shows the fear and impunity atmosphere there. “You should know that and that the report is dedicated to the memory of Natalya Estemirova. When she was murdered, we were shocked. We thought what we learned from Natalya and then we decided to go Chechnya to prepare this report” said Mr. Judd.
The second panel of the first day, “Georgian Policies toward the North Caucasus: The idea of a unified and peaceful Caucasus”, moderated Mr. Valeriy Dzutsev, an analyst from Jamestown Foundation. Among the panel members were: Mr. Gia Nodia and Mr. David Aprasidze from Ilia State University; Mr. David Darchiashvili, a Georgian parliamentarian; Mr. Georges Mamoulia from The Center for Russian Studies in Paris (CERCEC); Mr. Giorgi Sabedashvili, from “Independent Caucasus” and Mr. Khadzhi Murad Donogo, redactor of “Akhulgo” journal in Dagestan. It was an important section due to the claims of Russian state’s concerning the Georgian motives in the north Caucasus and their plans to raise the tension level in the area. The speakers mentioned that Georgia’s actions are helping to peace in Caucasus.
The following panel was about Chechnya with its title, “Human Rights Violations in Chechnya”. The panel was moderated by French journalist Mrs. Sophie Shihab. The speakers of this section were Mrs. Aude Merlin, a doctor from Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB); Mrs. Lidya Yusupova, a human rights advocate from Memorial; Mrs. Aminat Saieva, a former representative of Dzhoxar Dudaev and Aslan Maskhadov in Baltic states; and Mr. Dik Altemirov, a member of non-governmental organizations in Chechnya.
Mrs. Aude Merlin presented a question in the beginning of her speech, whether the war in Chechnya is really over or not, and through her presentation she answered that although there was an official declaration for the end of the war in 2009, reality proves otherwise. During her presentation she pointed out that Russia is following a systematic plan in Chechnya, as an example they started to change with national symbol’s and flag and then they wrote the Chechen history again with their lies like Akhmad Khadzhi Kadyrov as first President.
Mrs. Lidya Yusupova, a lawyer and a member of Russia’s leading human rights organization “Memorial” talked about her work in Chechnya during in past ten years. She presented the horrible photos of mass murders and crimes against humanity which were committed by Russian in all over the Chechnya. “Russia claims that they are in Chechnya to re-establish the constitutional order. All of these photos which you have seen done according to a new law rule which isn’t exist anywhere in the world. Even, as a lawyer I didn’t see such kind of rule in Russia’s law system, but it must be a modern law rule,” she said. Mrs. Yusupova said that not just Russian state, but also citizens and other republics in Russia are responsible the current situation. She pointed out that when the war started in Chechnya, everybody thought that it will be only in Chechnya, but now it has already spread all over the Russia.
Mrs. Aminat Saieva, presented the genocides against Chechen people until now. She said the history of Chechen and Caucasus people have a lot of pains.
Mr. Dik Altemirov. He also said that there weren’t two Russian-Chechen wars, because the war still didn’t over, it continues right now, even the people can’t talk about it.
The last panel of the first day was “European and American perspectives on the North Caucasus” and this section was moderated by Mr. Olivier Dupuis, Former European mp.
In this section, Mr. Stephen Bronner, from the “Center for the Study of Genocide conflict resolution” at Rutgers University, spoke about the genocide in the North Caucasus and said at the end of his words that he will do everything he can to raise the awareness to the Circassian Genocide.
The second day of the conference took place with three panels.
The first panel of the second day was “Russia and the Future of the North Caucasus”. The panel was moderated by Professor Moshe Gammer from Tel-Aviv University. The other speakers of this section were Mr. Pavel K.Baev, from International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway; Dr Raja Menon from City University of New York, US, Mr. Peter Reddeway from George Washington University and Mr. Witold S. Michalowski, the editor of Polish pipeline journal “Rurociagi”.
Professor Peter Reddaway University George Washington, gave a presentation about the Russian politics in North Caucasus. One of the possible scenarios that he mentioned is that because the Russian government is corrupt and weak problems in the Caucasus are beyond its abilities and cannot deal with them and in the future may decide to separate from the Caucasus.
Mr. Pavel K. Baev told that the North Caucasus is still isolated from the international scene. The region is quite complicated due to ongoing terrorist actions and growing up insurgency.
Dr Raja Menon explained that Russia has no policy regarding North Caucasus and that Russia insists that the situation is under control when in fact the situation in the Caucasus out of Russian controls; and the North Caucasus is a war zone because Russia did it. The only responsible of the happenings is Russia and its bad policy.
Mr. Witold Michalowksi said he witnessed acts of genocide while working in Chechnya and that we are also guilty of that by allowing these things to happen. “The time is for going into action, we mustn’t just talk, we have to do something to stop it,” he said.
Keynote Address of the second day was made by Andrei Glucksmann, a French writer and philosopher, and Mr. Mairbek Vatchagaev.
Mr. Glucksmann said in his presentation that the corruption controls Russia and that the North Caucasus is where the genocide occurred and continues till today. Mr. Glucksman said that Russians’ desire to control the Caucasus led to war, conquest, massacre and genocide.
Mr. Vatchagaev pointed out the armed struggle in North Caucasus has no relation with Russian FSB. The struggle may have an Islamic view but they have no connection with radical Islamic terrorist organizations like al-Qaida.
The second panel was “New Developments in the North Caucasus”. The section was moderated by Mrs. Marie Bennigsen, an expert on Caucasus and Central Asia. Mrs. Mariel Tsaroeva, an Ingush history professor and linguist in France; Mr. Robert T. Nesiner, a historian from Oxford St Antony’s Collehe; Mrs. Svetlana Alieva, a literary scholar; Mr. Vakha Chapanov, head of the Ingush Information Agency “Maximum”; and Mr. Arsamak Imagozhev, a member of Ingush Diaspora in Belgium, were the speakers of this panel.
Mr. Robert T. Nesiner and Mrs. Mariel Tsaroeva talked about the current situation in Dagestan. They have mentioned the human rights violations in the region and current problems of the people.
Mrs. Svetlana Alieva talked about the rights violations in Karachay-Cherkessia. She claimed that there wasn’t genocide against Circassian people, because there aren’t any documents to prove it. The Circassian participants of the conference sharply protest her words and claimed her to speak about Russia’s lies. The moderator of the section, Mrs. Marie Benningsen intervened and explained that what Russians did against Circassian people in 19th century is exactly genocide.
Mr. Vakha Chapanov talked about the human rights violations in Ingushetia. He gave the number of forced disappearances and murdered civilians in the republic. He said the former president of Ingushetia, Murad Zyazikov has never met with the representatives of local non-governmental organizations. The head of the republic, Mr. Yunus-bek Yevkurov holds meetings regularly with civil representatives, but nevertheless there is no development in the situation.
Mr. Arsamak Imagozhev talked about the relations between Ingush and Georgian people. He said that these two nations are tied to each other, they are brothers. He showed photos from their protest meetings against Russian occupation in Georgia in the summer of 2008.
The last panel of the conference was “The 2014 Sochi Olympics: Russia, Turkey and the Circassians”. This section was moderated by Mr. Ghia Nodia. Mr. Ruslan Keshev, a member of Adige Khasa in Kabardino-Balkaria; Mr. Valery Dzutsev, an analyst from Jamestown Foundation, Mr. Mitat Celikpala, a doctor from Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Mr. Iyad Youghar and Ms. Tamara Barsik from the Circassian International Council in New Jersey and Mrs. Janves Didan Varahram from the Circassian Institute of Munich, Germany.
Mr. Ruslan Keshev rejected the Russian claims that Circassians left their homeland voluntarily. Mr. Keshev showed that the Circassians were genocide by all sections, using documents that describe the destruction and burning of entire villages, massacre of innocent civilians and starvation of entire populations, parts of which who died and others who were expelled. According to his research, today the number of Circassians in the diasporas is 10 times more than the population of the Circassians who have remained in the Caucasus.
Mr. Valery Dzutsev referred to the economic aspect of the Sochi Olympics. Facility construction costs are rising steadily and according to official publications, will reach $30 billion, which is 7 times more than the last Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, Canada.
Mr. Mitat Celikpala said that Turkey has the largest Circassian Diaspora in the world. He pointed out that for Turkey, the Caucasus mean South Caucasus and Turkey has no politics for North Caucasus. He also said that due to the Armenian problem and close relations with Russia, he does not see at the moment that Turkey will accept the Circassian genocide.
Ms. Tamara Barsik made a very emotional presentation. She spoke about why Circassians are against the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 as well as the Circassian resistance to the games. She also presented Circassian actions since the Sochi Olympic Games for 2014 were awarded to Russia.
Mr. Janves Didem Varahram talked about the life of the Circassian minority in Germany and pointed out that many Circassians in Germany came from the Diaspora in Turkey.
In his closing remark, Mr. Glenn Howard thanked all those present and said that he appreciates their cooperation. According to him, the conference created new friendships between groups from the Caucasus. Mr. Howard said that the conference will continue to expand and that there is hope that the next conference will be even broader.
*Text was written by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco