Stalin’s 1944 Genocide Survivors Face Deportation from Belgium
Editorial board of Waynakh Online has received an appeal which address to the authorities of the Belgium about a Chechen asylum seeker family.
Belgian Immigration Authorities
Mme Annemie Turtelboom, Minister of Justice
Mme Maggie De Block, Secretary of State on Asylum and Migration
I am writing to you with an urgent plea in my last hope to save the lives of two elderly Chechens, the spouses Mr and Mrs Mukhmat Elisultanov, who survived the Stalin 1944- genocide when the entire Chechen nation in 23 Feb 1944 (the beginning) were deported in overcrowded cattle cars to the Kazakhstan steppes and Siberia. The Elisultanovs were born in 1946 and 1947 respectively, in Kazakhstan, in the deadliest years after the deportation. During the transportation and in the first 2-3 years in exile, more than a third of all deportees died from hunger, frost and maladies. The amount of children who died came close to 50%. You cannot find many Chechens born between 1940 and 1947 now: they are very rare survivors. And those who survived, especially those who were at that time small children remained rather sick or disabled all their lives. The Elisultanovs are among those rare survivors of Stalin’s genocide. And my deep feeling is that they should be treated similarly to the survivors of the Holocaust of European Jewry. Instead, having fled from yet another genocidal war in Chechnya to Belgium, they are deprived of even the smallest social aid and moreover, are threatened to be deported to that Hell for Chechens, called Russia, from where they would be sent, very likely, directly to Chechnya, under the tyranny of Kremlin-appointed Kadyrov.
It seems to be a sad irony of history but exactly 50 years after the Stalin genocide, the survivors’ children fell under another Russian genocide: two devastating Russian wars (1994-1996 and 1999-now). More than 250,000 Chechens perished, and another near 300,000 of them would flee from the war-torn Chechnya, in hope of save their lives and especially the lives of their children. For the first time in many years they can walk along the streets of other European countries without fear that they might be kidnapped. They now try to accommodate to a complicated and such a wonderfully different life abroad, as Chechen refugees. I am sure that most Chechen refugees from everywhere would return home if the bloody Kadyrov regime ever collapses.
Moreover, it is unlikely that the Elisultanovs would survive being deported from Belgium, especially Mukmat, because of his very fragile health (they both lost their last strength in effort to escape from Chechnya). But beyond that, one more argument, important and deadly dangerous , arises against the merciless deportation.
Their two Elisultanov sons, Murad and Ruslan, whom they raised with a great hope that they would never experience what they themselves went through when they were small children –Murad and Ruslan joined the Chechen Resistance without hesitation. They lived through Hell, but survived. The Elisultanov parents forced them to flee, to save their lives. The family couldn’t manage to flee together.
Ruslan worked as a director of the Chechen national archive during the Maskhadov Presidency. When the Russians came, Ruslan, risking his life, tried to remove and hide the archival documents from them, putting the priceless documents in two different places: half in one place and the rest in another. But the Russians discovered one of the places. On 14 April 2000 Ruslan was arrested, badly beaten by the Russian military, but was then released (maybe “by mistake”). Until October he was in hiding, and then fled to Azerbaijan. There, in Baku, I first met him (in 2000) when coming to Baku with humanitarian aid. He recalls: “I didn’t want to flee, because I didn’t want to leave behind my old and sick mother and father. But they were told that if they wanted to save their son they must force him to flee”.
Murad was arrested in Chechnya twice: in 2003 and 2005. The second time he was so dreadfully beaten that his butchers believed he was dead. They threw him out of jail and left. But he survived. After a basic recovery, being always in hiding, he fled from Chechnya.
But Russian and Kadyrov’s military and special forces began to terrorize the Elisultanovs, causing two heart attacks to the father. The tormentors wanted by all means to find the Elisultanovs’ sons. Those who had once previously fallen into their hands (especially of Kadyrov’s), no matter for how long, by Kadyrov’s determination, must be exterminated: killed or detained or just kidnapped and “disappear”. This is the philosophy of the Kadyrov regime, and the world should understand it. Moreover, by the same philosophy most of the relatives of such must-be-exterminated people, especially their parents, should be also punished. Many cases are revealed now when Kadyrov’s police publicly burn down the houses of relatives of those who are or even were in the Resistance. That’s why the Elisultanovs, Mukhmat and Zoya, who finally could escape from Chechnya, by no means can return to Chechnya, either forcibly or voluntarily. They crucially need to be granted asylum status.
And I hope that the Belgian authorities would reconsider their hasty decision about denial of asylum status to Mukhmat and Zoya Elisultanov.
Victoria Poupko, PhD
Director of Anna Politkovskaya Memorial Fund
President of Massachusetts Branch of American Association of Jews from the Former Soviet Union