Russia’s Bin Laden?
Doku Umarov has clamed responsibility for the bomb attack at a Moscow airport, which killed 102 people and injured hundreds more. Appearing on a video, dressed in combat gear and a thick set beard, his finger pointing outwards, he appears to have all the right qualifications to be the Bin Laden of Russia, which is why it was strange to see state-run Russia Today rubbishing his claims. One theory being discussed included the terrorist raising his profile so he can ensure a constant flow of money from those sympathetic to his cause. Many theories are on the table, however, no one has looked at the actions of Russia’s military in the Caucasus. The people of these lands have opposed Russia’s iron fisted rule ever since the armies of the Czar marched in at 1789, following the defeat of Ottoman arms. Then a figure emerged who captured the spirit of resistance to armies that were the original ethnic cleansers. Imam Shamyl looked remarkably like Doku himself, though unlike today’s warriors he never attacked civilians, nor did he have the advantage of using video online to intimidate and harass his sworn enemy. If the internet is going to come of its own, surely it will the power of the image that will bring this about. During the Balkan wars of the 1980s and 1990s, one journalist’s report forever altered the West’s perception of that conflict. Her shots of starving Muslim men behind barbed wire, against the words, “The Serbs say that this is not a concentration camp”, made it unacceptable for a regular army to commit acts of ethnic cleansing in Europe. If perception of the conflict in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia is to alter then video images of men like Doku Umarov need to be replaced by the faces of the countless victims that have suffered at the hands of Russia’s brutal occupation. Then, of course, the appearance of such videos online would lead to a true internet revolution.