Caucasus Theater

Turkish intellectuals in solidarity campaign for persecuted writer

The New York Times notes Oct. 6 that charges were dropped against Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, whose fictional character committed the crime of refering to the "Armenian genocide." But almost simultaneously, charges were brought against another writer, Hrant Dink, who dared to uphold historical truth. This Sept. 29 report from Turkey's BIA news agency indicates growing dissent among Turkish intellectuals:

Chechnya: Shamil Basayev reported killed

Interesting how Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty uncritically accepts Putin's talk of a fight against "terrorism." Basayev was assuredly a bad dude, but the Russian state's counterinsurgency war in the North Caucasus is hardly less terroristic—and, as this report actually notes, really produced Basayev in the first place. From RFE/RL, July 10:

Trans-Caucasus pipeline in first tanker delivery

A victory for Western designs on Capsian oil 20 years in the making, this heightens the regional contradictions in several ways. It places greater pressure on Turkey to crush the Kurdish PKK insurgents who are making trouble in precisely that section of Eastern Anatolia traversed by the pipeline. It places greater pressure on Russia to finally get Chechnya and the North Caucasus under control so a new Moscow-controlled alternative route can be built. And it places greater pressure on both Moscow and Washington to reshape the order in Central Asia in their favor before the next arm is built—across the Caspian Sea itself, incorprating the gas and oil fields of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan . Will that arm connect to the Baku-Ceyhan line, or to an alternate Russian-controlled route? From Turkey's Zaman, May 27:

Chechen Sufi revival —between Russian occupation and Wahhabis

How interesting. In an implicit acknowledgement that their hardcore Islamophobe policies are backfiring in Chechya, the Russian authorities are embracing the indigenous peace-loving Sufi tradition as an alternative to the violently intransigent Wahhabism imported from the Arab world. But this could also backfire—as the Sufis themselves also seek independence from Russia, even if they aren't willing to blow up civilians to acheive it. The implications are "unclear" indeed. And while it is good to see the Kunta-Haji Sufis on page 4 of the New York Times, we're not sure they would appreciate the writer's depiction of their chanting as "grunts."

North Caucasus violence continues; authorities to redraw borders?

One civilian was killed and several injured (both police and civilians) in a clash that erupted when police opened fire on protesters blocking a road in Dagestan's Dokuzpari district April 25. The protesters, who were demanding the dismisal of a local prosecutor accused of corruption, responded by hurling stones. (ITAR-TASS, April 26)

North Caucasus: violence, repression in Cechnya, Dagestan

Insurgency and counterinsurgency grind on in the North Caucasus, with the world's attention elsewhere. Two police were killed and five wounded April 15 when gunmen ambushed their armored personnel carrier in Chechnya, Russia's RIA reported. One was killed by a roadside bomb and the second when gunmen with automatic weapons opened fire.

Turkey: free speech on trial —again

A victory for free speech and historical memory was declared last month when charges were dropped against Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, who had dared to invoke the World War I genocide of the Armenians, as well as more recent persecution of the Kurds. But, as we noted at the time, the real victory would not be until the law he was prosecuted under, Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, was overturned. Now, once again, it seems the victory was a Phyrric one as five more writers face charges under the same law. From the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists:

Turkey: court drops case against writer

A victory for historical memory—doubtless motivated by the Turkish state's desire to gain EU entry. But as this Jan. 23 press release from Amnesty International makes clear, the greater victory will be when the law under which Orhan Pamuk was charged is repealed.

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