Kvedaravicius: “Majority of Men in Chechnya Sleep Dressed”
The Lithuanian director of the award winning documentary movie, “Barzakh”, Mantas Kvedaravičius spoke to the Lithuanian news agency “Delfi.lv” about his movie and the situation in the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
Mantas Kvedaravičius is an anthropologist and philosopher, who is preparing his PhD thesis about the situation in Chechnya. He has been conducting research on torture and disappearances in the North Caucasus, especially in Chechnya since 2006. To this aim, he has lived in Chechnya and shot his movie “Barzakh” between 2006 and 2009, mostly with hidden cameras. The film is about Chechen families who have lost their loved ones. It shows the traces of war and violence in the Chechen people’s everyday lives. “Barzakh” is a religious term which refers to the Qur’an (Surah 23, Ayat 100) and sets a boundary between two worlds; life and death.
The director says that after more than a decade of fighting with Russia, the war officially ended in Chechnya, according to the Russian authorities. However, there is no peace and violence is an everyday reality. “It seems, everything is organized and houses have been restored; people go to work, receive wages and social benefits, but at the same time are living in a huge vacuum. People live in constant fear; fear of death and fear of kidnapping,” said the director.
Kvedaravičius claims that the main aim of the Chechen people has changed from seeking independence to having peace, because they are tried to think about whether will soldiers kidnap them or not.
The Lithuanian director says that there are special forces which consist of thousands of armed people, who have been there since before the end of anti-terrorism operation. Anyone can be kidnapped in Chechnya and charged with a crime. Usually, this is a young and strong man. Armed people will kidnap them in the streets or from their houses. They have tortured kidnapped people until they admit that they committed one or more crimes, which in fact is not true. Kvedaravičius gives an example with one of his movie characters. The character was forced to eat his hair, had his ears cut off, and then was required to say that his ear was cut off by independence fighters.
“At any time, a group of armed soldiers from special units may break into your house. Mostly they prefer to come while you are sleeping. They take the man from his bed and if his relatives resist or the man tries to escape, the soldiers simply beat or kill them. Therefore, the majority of Chechen people sleep dressed, because they don’t want to be caught in their pajamas,” said Kvedaravičius.
*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco