“Gang kills seven in Russian sauna”

Health_complex_Buynaksk“Russian police are hunting gunmen who killed seven women at a sauna and four policemen at a checkpoint in the troubled southern region of Dagestan. In Thursday’s attack … at least 15 gunmen opened fire on a traffic police checkpoint on the edge of Buynaksk. … They went on to attack a sauna at a nearby health complex, killing seven women workers there,” BBC News reported.

According to the New York Times, “more than 20 people were killed in violent clashes in Russia’s North Caucasus region in the last two days, including a mysterious attack on seven women in a sauna, underscoring the Kremlin’s continued struggles to bring the volatile area under control.”

It seems apparent that two of the most respected international news media “don’t get it” once again regarding reporting from North Caucasus.

Let us start from the sauna. Generally in Russia and especially in the Caucasus, a sauna is not “a building equipped for a Finnish-style hot steam bath”, as an English dictionary may inform us.

A sauna in Caucasus is the place where the world’s oldest profession is practised. Let us not mince words: it is a whorehouse, a brothel.

Furthermore, the Dagestani “police”, the so-called law enforcement agency, is a bottomless swamp of violence, terror and corruption. The militia on Nevsky Prospect, which frequently rob money from tourists, are harmless Sunday-school pupils in comparison with their brute North Caucasian colleges.

In Buynaksk, the mentioned sauna is situated less than 200 meters from the slain militia’s police station. Without doubt, we may assume that this militia offered the whorehouse the “roof” for a percentage of the women’s income. Maybe we should call them pimps?

They were shot only some dozen of meters from the “sauna.” Whether they were there for collecting commissions or getting “treatment” is open to speculation.

This basic knowledge tells us that the “militant gang” were out for killing some criminals in uniform, as well as their clients or subordinates, those “women working in the health complex”.

The attack is “mysterious” only for an observer physically located on the other side of an ocean, or mentally even more distant from reality, relying on Russian news sources in Caucasus reporting.

For an observant reporter, this militant action towards police and sauna workers (i.e. criminals and whores), did not appear as a surprise.

The mouthpiece of the North Caucasian resistance, the news agency and web portal Kavkaz-Center, published already in beginning of August a “Message to the pimps and owners of saunas”, a warning letter from an action group of Moslems in Shamilkala (Makhachkala) to those engaged in the whorehouse business.

The militia, which truthfully may only be described as an organized crime organization, has likewise been under fire from the fighters. This attack killed two birds with one stone, so to speak.

For a person living in a civilized society, such acts of violence look quite undue and inappropriate. The problem is, however, that North Caucasus is not a place of civilized life. It is a domicile of state terrorism, committed by an obsolete form of colonialist rule.

Before the Russian army entered the mountainous area some 400 years ago, North Caucasus had quite a peaceful life and history, especially compared with nearby Europe.

In the beginning, the social order was maintained by blood feud and an unwritten code of conduct – the Adat in Chechnya, Aqeabz in Abkhazia and Khaabdze among Circassians. Later on, the unwritten code was replaced or completed by Shariah Law and Islamic morale.

Entering from the North, the occupiers brought with them a baggage of brutality, ruthlessness, genocides, corruption, immorality and indifference for the rule of law.

The root of the present turmoil in North Caucasus is to be found in these “gifts” of the Russians to the indigenous peoples of North Caucasus.

People do not want to live as subordinates to a foreign power, which unfortunately is offering no decent order and no rule of law. This state of the nation force people to the ultimate step of taking up arms, in order to grant themselves and future generations a better life.

Analyzing the attack described above, the chief editor of the Dagestani newspaper “Chernovik” (Draft) finds the reason for this situation in the corruption in Dagestan.

According to Nadir Isayeva, when people cannot change the situation within the present legal order, they start to act as part of an alternative legal framework – the Shariah Law, she told to the correspondent of the “Caucasian Knot”.

“It is when ordinary people as well as representatives of the Spiritual Administration of Dagestan are raising questions and are calling authorities to address the issue of prostitution, which has widely spread under the disguise of saunas (this has been a big topic in public discussion in 2005) and authorities fail to produce any solutions, that an alternative dimension appears with its own laws in place,” Isayeva said.

“According to the canons of the current legislation these attackers are outside of the legal framework. They believe themselves to be living in accordance with the laws of Islam and Shariah. That is exactly why they are being called illegal armed groups.”

“These people exist in an alternative legal framework, in which there is such a term as criminal sentencing,” Isayeva said.

Isayeva believes that what is happening in Dagestan does not fit into the official version of events.

“There is a need to acknowledge that there is a parallel perception of the world, to find the reason for its existence. Otherwise, if one is going simply to call the situation using some words which do not explain anything, like “banditry” or “looting”, then the situation is bound to repeat”, Chernovik’s editor-in-chief believes.

Nadir Isayeva told Radio Echo of Moscow that the sauna incident is not to be compared with banditry, but has to do with the struggle of local population for morality, and the fighters regard themselves to be performing legal actions. Additionally, she said that “people basically support these actions of militants”.

Her statement has caused an outcry in Dagestan.

Recall also that a “Chernovik” is the target of prosecution in Dagestan with charges of extremism, i.e. the normal accusation against those who express opinions other than the official truth.

During the first six months of 2009, more than 30 policemen and military personnel have been killed in Dagestan. The unrest, which earlier occurred mainly in the mountainous areas nearby Chechnya, have during last years spread all over Dagestan.

Mikael Storsjö
Helsinki, Finland
For Kavkaz Center

Photo capture:
The Buynaksk “health complex”.
Kommersant 15.8.2009, Photo: Bashir Aliyev / NEWSTEAM

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  1. Civil war truly brings forth the worst in man. There is no justification for killing unarmed civilians, whatever their profession.

    It is a sad reminder of the sort of values that Dagestan’s armed militants adhere to that they regard as their right to kill people who engage in prostitution.

    Gandhi once said that “a society can be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” How will we judge a society ruled by people who kill prostitutes?

  2. Understanding an event is very far from the concept of accepting or supporting. A quote from my keyboard in the article above: “For a person living in a civilized society, such acts of violence look quite undue and inappropriate.”

    Actually, the correct quote of Gandhi is: “You can judge a society by the way it treats its animals.” The idea of measuring a society or nation according to how it treats ist weakest and most vulnerable citizens goes back to Aristotle, to 3rd century BC.

    One problem in Dagestan – among many other problems – is that the foreign power inflicts its own moral values upon a society consisting mainly of indigenous people. I don’t think Nadir Isayeva finds this kind of counter-actions supportable, but she tries to understand the motivation behind. That’s also what my article is about.

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