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Land reform activist ‘beaten up’ in Kabardino-Balkaria

13 November 2018
From left to right: Human rights activist Valery Khatazhukov, Adam Medaliyev, and journalist Konstantin Gusev after the attack on Medaliyev (Facebook)

A prominent land reform activist in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria has claimed he was attacked and his car set on fire.

In a statement released by the local branch of Russian rights group Za Prava Cheloveka (For Human Rights), Adam Medaliyev said he was beaten up on 7 November in the town of Nartan, just outside the Republic’s capital, Nalchik.

According to him, his car was set alight near his house in Nalchik later the same night.

Medaliyev said he noticed a car with no number plates parked at the gate of his Nartan house as he drove up to it in the evening, after which two young men in medical masks came out of it.

‘One of them approached me and said: “Salam Aleykum” [a Muslim greeting]. I responded to the greeting, and at the same time, he suddenly struck me in the face with a fist. After that, the second young man in a medical mask approached us and also began striking my body with an object resembling a bat’.

Medaliyev said he believed the incident was connected to his work advocating for local residents in a land dispute in Nartan.

‘I believe that at present there is a real threat to my life and health, as well as to the life and health of my family members’, he said in the statement.


The land issue

Medaliyev said he had informed the police of both incidents, and also sent the statement to the prosecutor of Kabardino-Balkaria, the Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the regional branch of the opposition Yabloko Party.

Khakim Kuchmezov, chair of the Yabloko party in Kabardino-Balkaria, told OC Media that he also linked the attack on Medaliyev with his activism.

Activist Ibragim Yaganov, an associate of Medaliyev’s, also related the attack to the conflict over land in Nartan.

‘Definitely, today’s attack is the work of his opponents on the land issue’, Yaganov told Caucasian Knot.

Medaliyev had been advocating for the distribution of land from what was a collective farm in Soviet times to local residents.

When the state-owned Nartan Experimental Production Farm, which had taken over management of the land, went bankrupt in 2010, auctions were arranged to sell off the land.

Medaliyev told OC Media in January that even before this, the land had already been transferred to ‘influential officials’.

‘Now auctions are being held, but they auction too large plots (100–1,000 hectares) and they put forward conditions for 100% prepayment for the land. A farmer isn’t able to rent a large area and isn’t able to pay 100% of the price outright. Therefore, we believe that the auctions in this form are not a panacea.’

‘We, the residents of the rural settlement of Nartan, believe that we are being illegally deprived of the opportunity to use public collective land’, Medaliyev said.

Local residents protested against the auction saying they did not have the means to participate in it and demanded the local authorities distribute the land to locals.

In May, the organisers of the auction recognised it had failed due to the refusal of local residents to participate in it.

Not the first attack

The attack on Medaliyev was not the first crime in the Kabardino-Balkaria against rural activists demanding land reform.

In October 2016, a resident of the village of Verkhniy Akbash Murat Kishev was shot in the head and neck. He and other local residents had demanded they be granted the right to use land they said had been illegally appropriated.

In May 2017, local farmer Ruslan Kumakhov was killed in the village of Altud. He had advocated for the right of local residents to rent land that someone from a neighbouring village had taken over.

‘At present, almost all the land in Kabardino-Balkaria belongs to a narrow circle of people. There are villages where residents do not own a single square meter of land’, the official web page of the Yabloko party cites Kuchmezov as saying.

[Read more on OC Media: When the ground slips out from under the feet]

The head of rights group Za Prava Cheloveka in Kabardino-Balkaria, Valeriy Khatazhukov, told OC Media that the authorities ‘postponing the solution to the land problem’ and protecting officials at the republic and district level could in future lead to ‘a major social explosion in the republic’.


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