No other region on the European continent has suffered over the last twenty years as much as the North Caucasus. The region has endured two devastating wars, terrorism, and pervasive violence and injustice up to the present. The situation in this piece of land on the borders of Europe is far from being peaceful today and the people have continued to be legitimately worried about their safety.
Today can hardly be compared with the war years, when as a result of the fighting in Chechnya tens of thousands of civilians were killed and entire neighborhoods of cities were bombed. The capital of Chechnya, Grozny, has been sumptuously reconstructed over the last few years, but behind the new facades fear rules far and wide. The state can call for anyone anytime and a person can just disappear. There is no one that can be turned to for justice; often it is impossible to even figure out what exactly happened. In Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov governs over the land and his armed units, commonly known as the Kadyrovtsy, are connected to a range of accusations over torture and other horrific crimes. Free media, independent courts or police simply do not exist – everything is subordinated to Ramzan Kadyrov. Chechnya can be considered, within the area of the North Caucasus and Russia, in its measure of totalitarianism as an extreme case. However, torture, abductions and extrajudicial executions also occur in other regions in the North Caucasus. In recent years, especially in Dagestan, the army and police have been struggling with rebels – whether real or imagined – who want to impose a strictly Islamic character on the country. Among other things, shootings, explosions and other operations using heavy military equipment happen often.
Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia – each of the republics of the North Caucasus has its own problems in many respects, but the common denominator is the impunity of security forces, which in these societies has incrementally led to a sense of injustice and helplessness, and only complicates and delays finding a real solution to the problems of the region. As pointed out by Russian human rights defenders, torture, murder and disappearances are made possible precisely because the state security forces, in practice, do not have to follow the laws – they are in fact protected by the highest levels of leadership of the state. The only hope for justice, however delayed and somewhat distant it might be, is through the European Court of Human Rights, which is swamped with legal cases from Russia, a large portion of which currently are cases from Chechnya and the other republics of the North Caucasus.
In comparison with other times in the past, today is it naturally far more difficult for local human rights defenders, who are trying their best even under these difficult conditions to find justice, to attract international attention about the complex issues of the North Caucasus – through this exhibition we would like to contribute to their efforts.