Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
9 - 15 December 1999
Issue No. 459
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

License to kill

By Salama Ahmed Salama

Salama Ahmed Salama At a time when Russian bombs and missiles were devastating hundreds of thousands of Chechnyan civilians, surrounded by Russian forces on every side, members of the People's Assembly and of the so-called Egyptian-Russian Friendship Society exchanged amiable conversation as they drank each other's health during a banquet held in honour of the Russian delegation. The Egyptian side's sole concern was to assure the head of the delegation that the Arabs and Muslims have nothing to do with the events taking place in Chechnya. While President Clinton condemns the brutalities the Russian troops were perpetrating against unarmed civilians in Chechnya, and the European Union convenes to investigate the developments of the dirty war raging on its eastern borders, the Egyptians engaged in inconsequential chitchat, merely to make it clear to the Russians that relations with Egypt would in no way be impaired by events in the Caucasus and Chechnya.

But if these events are not awful enough to impair relations, what is? The Arab and Islamic countries' total silence, their willingness to turn a blind eye to the massacres of Chechnyan Muslims ordered by President Yeltsin and Russian Prime Minister Putin, are nothing less than a license to kill an unarmed people. Moscow's campaign is a clear threat to all the peoples of the Caucasus, whose only crime is to claim freedom and independence from the tyranny and oppression of the Russian union. To this day, not a single Egyptian voice has been raised in objection or opposition to these massacres.

Ismail Sabri Abdallah, the well-known intellectual, recently reminded us that the Chechnyans are one of the ethnic groups that came to settle in Egypt during the Mameluke and Ottoman periods, gradually becoming fully assimilated in the population. All that remains of their identity is the family name Shishini, which still exists today. He does not exclude the fact that the despotic Yeltsin may have counted on the terrorist attacks that have shaken Moscow to spur Russian fanaticism in anticipation of the upcoming presidential elections.

The Russian authorities have denied the Western media access to Chechnya. The horrific pictures that have emerged, however -- the hordes of terrified, trapped and starving Chechnyan civilians -- are ample proof that Yeltsin has lost his mind and that the Islamists he is claiming to target have fled to their strongholds in the mountains. Only the most vulnerable members of the population -- the elderly, women and children -- are left for the Russians to massacre. To remain silent as this tragedy takes place is a disgrace to Arab and Islamic countries alike; but it is shameful for the countries of western Europe, which have enabled Yeltsin to commit his crimes.

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