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A public council to socialise the families of slain militants and local security forces has been created in Ingushetia. The organisation will provide psychological and practical support, including help in finding employment.
The authorities in Ingushetia announced the creation of a public council to work with relatives of members of illegal armed formations on 14 February. According to his press service, the idea came from the head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, and is the first and only such project in Russia.
The main task of the council will be to organise and carry out educational, cultural, and sports events for the children of law enforcement personnel killed in the line of duty and the children of members of ‘illegal armed formations’, and providing families with psychological, legal, consultative, and practical assistance as well as supporting them in finding employment and obtaining an education. Social activist Aset Yevlova, who headed a parents’ committee in Ingush schools, was appointed the head of the new council.
‘We are not abandoning the families of slain militants. I ordered the creation of a women’s organisation that would include the widows of members of the militant underground who have been killed or are wanted, and of other criminals’, stated the press service of the Head of Ingushetia.
While there are already government programmes to assist the children of officials killed in the line of duty in Russia, this is the first to help the families of those fighting against the state. Ingush human rights worker Timur Akiyev, head of Memorial Human Rights Centre in Nazran, expressed his support for the initiative.
‘There is a definite problem with the families of members of illegal armed formations, or of those who are incarcerated, or those who are killed in special operations’, says Akiyev. ‘And not only in Ingushetia, but throughout the whole North Caucasus. In Ingushetia they are trying to highlight this issue. Even if it doesn’t work, then at least defining it is good as well. In 2015 the republic’s authorities even had the idea of running a camp for children of members of illegal armed formations and the children of deceased security force personnel. It’s too early to talk about the effectiveness of such a model for rehabilitation and socialisation, but the authorities are making attempts in this direction. The creation of the council for socialisation is one of these steps’.
When the head of a family is killed as a fighter, the surviving family often faces pressure from law enforcement agencies. As children in these families grow up, the attention towards the family increases. According to the system on which Ingush police and special forces currently works, the families are taken under surveillance as a preventive measure. Local police must visit these families often and keep tabs on what the children of slain militants are up to.
In wider society there is generally no animosity towards such families. On the contrary, many neighbours and relatives render them every sort of support. There is widespread belief that law enforcement bodies themselves cause issues surrounding these families and then try to solve the imaginary problems they create. Alikhan, a 55-year-old Nazran resident, is sceptical that creating such committees will benefit either the families or the authorities in any way.
‘Just imagine the situation in a family where a supposed fighter has been killed. Now his children, brothers, sisters, and wife must fear everything. They will definitely interrogate them, summon them frequently to the police station, and even threaten them. If you take into account that our special forces very often kill people in Ingushetia supposedly “by accident”, then the attention paid to such people is unfair. And then, after all this happens and the family has moved on with life and is occupied in peaceful work, now they bring it all back up again, saying “look, you’re the family of an enemy of the state, whom we killed, so we will now raise and educate you”. This is populism that will not have any effect beyond announcements.’ Alikhan said.
Following the initial announcement of the council for families of militants, Head of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov announced the creation of another public council, to provide assistance to the widows of militants. In an interview for RIA Novosti, Yevkurov said that an organisation purely for women will be created dedicated to their problems. It remains unclear whether this will be one and the same organisation or if two public councils to render aid to the families and widows of militants will be working simultaneously.
The creation of such commissions is not the only step being taken by the Ingush authorities. The ‘Commission for Adaptation to Civilian Life for Those who Decide to Cease Terrorist and Extremist Activities’ began functioning in the republic in 2011. Members of the commission have so far handled cases sent to them of fighters disillusioned with Islamist ideas who want to return to civilian life with honesty and openness. The only condition was that each case be examined in a court of justice, with a sentence depending on the degree of their offences. Since the commission’s creation, about 70 people have returned to civilian life this way.
The first de facto head of the Commission was the secretary of Ingushetia’s Security Council, Akhmed Kotiyev, who was killed in an armed attack in August 2013. A month later there was a change of government in the republic. The commission was left without a head for some time. The statistics show clearly that it was under Kotiyev that the most militants returned to civilian life.
According to data from the Ingush Security Council, 17 people were ‘adapted to peaceful life’ in 2011, 21 in 2012, 5 in 2013, 4 in 2014, and 4 in 2015.
In 2016, the Ingush authorities re-stated their commitment to finding a solution for members of illegal armed groups; there has even been talk of helping people who joined the Islamic State and went to fight in Syria. Yevkurov recognised that the parents of some of these fighters have written statements about their sons, and he gave assurances that ‘all statements to the adaptation commission will be examined objectively and that the efforts made by participants of illegal armed formations on the territory of Syria to return to a peaceful and creative life will receive maximum support’.
The actions taken by the Ingush authorities to address these urgent issues of concern are in diametrical contrast to measures taken in neighbouring Chechnya. There, the authorities customarily exact punishment, not only on fighters, but also their families. There is no salvation even when families have repudiated the militants’ actions, which according to traditional law absolves them from all responsibility. Around five years ago, the authorities began burning down the homes of militants; now, it is is common practice to exile all close relatives of militants from the republic.
It is apparent that in Ingushetia the authorities are taking a different approach. Some observers believe that, that behind these different approaches, cruelty in Chechnya and tolerance in Ingushetia, are certain forces in the federal government. Murad, a resident of Malgobek District, is certain of this, and has his own answer as to why this is being done.
‘I think that after some time, Moscow will draw conclusions and take some sort of obligatory decision about how the underground must be dealt with. After all, we all know that there are a lot of potential militants that are in “sleep mode” in the Caucasus, i.e. they’ve never shown themselves anywhere, but hypothetically may rise up and fight when there is a call to do so. The authorities are battling them in a sufficiently severe fashion and the Kremlin apparently understands that this problem cannot be solved by such measures alone. The December attack on police officers in Grozny showed this clearly enough. They found a large number of young men who they called ISIS “sleeper cells”, and most all of them were from [Chechen Head] Ramzan Kadyrov’s own native Kurchaloy District’, said the Ingush social activist.