The Beslan school tragedy

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 19.09.04

The Beslan School tragedy in the North Ossetia state of the Russian Federation will be
remembered in the history as a dreadful event claiming more than three hundreds of
innocent lives. In a video shot by the hostage takers, on the first day, the guiltless children
and women were shown to have been sitting on the floor of the school gymnasium packed
with hanging bombs, besides other kinds of explosives spreaded around.  

Possibly the video was sent out either at the end of the first day or on the second day to
get realized the security forces entrenched outside how serious was the situation inside and
what might be the consequences of any repetition of the Moscow theater rescue operation
(October, 2002)! The authenticity of the video movie was a lucky survivor, 10-year-old,
Georgy Farniyev, who was shown to have been sitting near a masked man having a
detonator under his foot.  

One of the main reasons of the blood shed seems to be the delaying tactic applied by the
concerned authorities. A survivor, Marina Kozyreva, a mother of a schoolgirl Diana, spent
the whole time in the school gym, told a newspaper, Kommersant, “They (the captives) were
all prepared for death, especially on the second and third days, because the gunmen were
saying nobody would be able to enter the school and also that people outside didn't give a
damn about them. They don't even want to give you water or food. Nobody had contacted
them (the captors) and nobody had requested anything from them (the captors)”.

The delaying tactic was to exhaust the nerves of the captors. Surely, on the third day, the
nerves were exhausted but resulted in chaos. A survivor, Diana Gadzhinova, 14, speaking
to a newspaper, Izvestiya, said "It took us all by surprise. We were told there would be talks
and we were ordered to lie face down [in the gym]... Then there was an explosion in the
yard. Then there was shooting... [My sister and I] stayed where we were, lying on the floor.
But suddenly there was another explosion above us and part of the ceiling fell in. People
were screaming, there was panic”.

The statement indicates that the first explosion happened in the yard (may be outside of
the building) and second one in the gym. Shooting followed both of the explosions. Hence,
the sordid drama began.

Another survivor of the episode, Santa Zangiyeva, 15, revealed to the newspaper,
Izvestiya, she asked one of the hostage takers (who had his right hand bandaged)
“Will you at least let the children go?” He replied, “No, [because] your Russian troops in
Chechnya catch children just like you and cut their heads off. I had a daughter, about your
age, and they killed her”. The hostage takers showed their approach of tit for tat.

Every one knows that independence cannot be sought in this way. The point might be to
catch the headlines and get the Chechen issue internationalized, which had been
submerged since the Iraq subject had been surfaced. The same happened but in a pathetic
way bringing a bad name to the Muslims.

In this regard, the act of the hostage takers firstly, keeping innocent children and women
captives; secondly, depriving them of food and water for three days; and thirdly, killing them
in cold blood, is condemnable in the bitter possible words. Otherwise, what is the difference
between the barbaric acts of the Russian army to slaughter Chechens and the freedom
fighters to kill the innocent people? Had the innocent lives spared, who knows, how many
would have embraced Islam or could have supported the cause of Chechnya?  These sorts
of acts have invited more hatred than sympathy for the cause generally and for the Muslims
specially.

Islam has laid down principles of both peace and war. Strict adherence to those is
mandatory on the followers what come may, as according to the teachings of Islam; this is a
world of test and not of reward. Islam puts a human being first and his religion later.

If the Muslims do not condemn the act today, their mosques will suffer casualties of
sectarian strife, which happens under the same pretext. That is, they kill our innocent; we
will kill their innocent. The formula is wrong. A lot of precious lives have been lost within the
Muslims and without them.

If events forebode, the assassination of the Moscow backed President, Akhmad Kadyrov, in
May 2004, in a Grozny stadium, was enough to predict as to what will happen next? In
March 2003, a referendum had approved a new constitution giving Chechnya more
autonomy but specifying that it would remain firmly a part of Russia. Under the Constitution,
in October 2003, the Moscow backed moderate and popular Chechen leader, Akhmad
Kadyrov, was elected president of Chechnya.

The political arrangement was to keep Chechnya in the folds of Russia in one way or
another. However, his assassination indicated a level of non-receptivity of the Moscow
backed government in Chechnya. Afterwards, when the groundwork for the next
Presidential election/referendum was underway, the Russian school siege was under
preparation somewhere else. It showed stubbornness from both the sides: the authorities
and the rebels, to their respective cause.  

On September 06, at the eve of a two-day conference on Russian-Western relations, at his
official residence at Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, Vladimir Putin, the President of
Russia, has shown flexibility in at least three areas. Firstly, he has agreed to award more
autonomy to Chechnya even to the point of "violating the Russian Constitution”, but within
the framework of the Russian Federation. Secondly, he has acknowledged to “broaden the
political dialogue" by reaching out to more groups and political leaders in Chechnya.
Thirdly, he has acceded to the demand of holding new and more representative
parliamentary elections in Chechnya.

Hence, it seems that soon the situation will calm down and another Iraq is not in the making.

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