Monday, April 05, 2010

Russia / Caucasus

After Attacks in Russia, Fears of Xenophobia
By Michael Schwirtz
The New York Times, April 5, 2010
"Lilya Paizulayeva descended into the subway anxiously, trying to keep her distance from the crowds and the newly deployed and heavily armed police officers. She cringed at the train's loud metallic shriek, pressing herself to the wall. She was not scared of suicide bombers -- she feared being taken for one herself. With her jet-black hair and large dark eyes, Ms. Paizulayeva, a 26-year-old native of Chechnya, looks very much the daughter of Russia's fiery North Caucasus region, from where, investigators say, two young women traveled to Moscow to blow themselves up last week in the rush-hour throngs, killing at least 40 people. While for many the attacks are an unsettling reminder of the female suicide bombers who have terrorized this city for years, women from the Caucasus, particularly from Chechnya, say they worry about the return of the arbitrary arrests, xenophobic attacks and open hostility that many experienced after similar terrorist attacks in the past.
'Psychologically, I feel a kind of alarm inside,' said Ms. Paizulayeva, who was born in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, and fled to Moscow in 1995 with her family when the war there started. 'Though I’m dressed like a local, I think that perhaps someone could attack me in the metro,' she said. 'This whole week I have felt like a stranger in this city.' Though Russian citizens, Chechens and others from the North Caucasus are often seen as foreigners in Russia, especially here in the capital, and are frequently associated with immigrants from the countries of Central Asia that were former Soviet republics. More than 1,000 miles from Moscow, Chechnya has its own language, religion and customs, as well as a history of violent separatism that many in the rest of the country find alien in the best of times and threatening in the worst. There have already been several reports of revenge attacks against people from the Caucasus in the wake of the bombings. Last week a brawl broke out on a subway train when a group of passengers insisted on inspecting the bags of several people who appeared to be from the Caucasus, according to the Sova Center, an organization that tracks xenophobic violence. Attacks against people with darker skin and hair typical of those from the Caucasus are not uncommon in Russia. But it is the women, particularly Chechen women, who are frequently associated with suicide attacks. Female suicide bombers, most often from Chechnya, have been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in Russia in the last decade. These so-called Black Widows have carried out at least 16 bombings, killing hundreds. [...]"

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