Month: March 2011

Identifying the rebels

In the New Yorker, Jon Lee Anderson writes about the social and political profile of Libya’s “rebels”:

In Benghazi, an influential businessman named Sami Bubtaina expressed a common sentiment: “We want democracy. We want good schools, we want a free media, an end to corruption, a private sector that can help build this nation, and a parliament to get rid of whoever, whenever, we want.” These are honorable aims. But to expect that they will be achieved easily is to deny the cost of decades of insanity, terror, and the deliberate eradication of civil society.

Advertisements

The Hawks

In Jamestown’s North Caucasus Weekly, Mairbek Vatchagaev discusses Kabardino-Balkaria’s Black Hawks:

First, the man in a mask makes a statement in good Russian, without any accent characteristic of Kabardins or Balkars, monotonously reading his text as if he were a television announcer. Next, the Russian media, as if they were awaiting orders from above, begin a public relations campaign to energetically promote this paramilitary organization on all TV and radio channels and in the Russian press. Yet, for some reason, the Russian prosecutor-general’s office has not yet filed a criminal case against those who openly called for the murder of children of the militants’ relatives one and a half months after the statement was made.

Two sides of the same coin

The curious standoff between two types of political extremism on the fringes of Europe – yet in close proximity to the Russian Federation – continues unabated. Most recently,  Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat daily newspaper reported on one aspect of the affair, namely the news that Finland’s public prosecutor is demanding a jail term for the Finnish businessman Mikael Storsjö, who is accused of illegally helping dozens of Chechen refugees to enter Finland. But this is only a part of the ongoing situation, which involves a vitriolic campaign by two Finnish pro-Russian activists – the Lutheran pastor Juha Molari and the university lecturer Johan Bäckman – whose aim is apparently to call into question the activities of human rights campaigners in the North Caucasus, and also at the same time to challenge the policies of governments in the Baltic states, particularly those of Estonia and Latvia, with regard to their Russian-speaking minorities.

The problem for outside observers who are trying to make sense of it all is that the confrontation between Molari/Bäckman on the one hand, and Storsjö/pro-Islamist (Doku Umarov) Kavkaz Center website on the other, looks suspiciously like a manufactured conflict representing two sides of the same extremist coin.  Since most of the details are published either in Finnish or Russian on websites not normally visited or read by Western media, the potential for disinformation on these and related issues is probably rather high.