'Arabising' the Chechens for maximum effect

The description in the Moscow Times of the suspected suicide

    In the aftermath of the suspected suicide bombing at Domodedovo airport which killed over 35 people and injured many others -  a grizzly image has appeared on Russian NTV television showing a photograph of what seems to be the severed head of the suspected suicide bomber.

    It's said to be of a "man aged 30 to 35 and of North Caucasus or Arab appearance" according to the Moscow Times.


    Curiously, there's a big difference between the two, as there are big physical differences even among Arabs, for example between a Lebanese and a Yemeni or a Palestinian and a Northern Sudanese.


    To say, "North Caucasus or Arab appearance" implies they are one and the same. I am no expert on genetics, but there is no doubt a reason why "white" people in general are referred to as "Caucasian".

    Chechens, are from the North Caucasus. Caucasus - Caucasian. No?


    Blue and green eyes, pale white skin and somewhat Slavic features makes them look much like their Russian countrymen (Chechnya is an autonomous state within Russia and the fighters want it to separate completely), and I was informed once by a translator that large parts of their languages are mutually intelligible. 


    During the Chechen wars, scores of Arab jihadi fighters did join the Chechens in opposing Moscow's rule - but if they were referring to possible foreign fighters within Chechnya, might NTV and the Moscow Times not have been more specific?


    It's quite likely that fighters from Chechnya, Dagestan or Ingushetia may have carried out the horrendous attack - especially those wanting the region to become an "Islamic Emirate".


    Civilians are fair game to them in a tit-for-tat narrative we've seen repeated numerously in history, a common thread among state vs non-state entities.


    When I asked Vakha Umarov, the brother of Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, about the civilian deaths in the Moscow metro bombings last year he used the crude logic of the numbers game, asking how 40 civilians killed in the metro can compare to the 45,000 children killed in the second Chechen war?


    He and many other Chechens see their fight as righteous, no matter how deadly the means, and consider the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov as a Kremlin stooge. 


    Anger and resentment in the North Caucasus runs deep, many Chechen parents I visited in refugee camps near Istanbul would boast of their children becoming a "mujahid" or fighter for jihad, once they grow up.


    Most tea time chit-chat was interrupted with historical reminders of Russian oppression, not just in the recent wars, but even as far back as the time of Joseph Stalin, when he deported the entire Chechen population en masse to Siberia. 



    Young Chechen refugee in Turkey (photo by Emre Rende)


    The fact that the Chechens may be Muslim and that the rebels use political Islamism as a tool of resistance or terror, whichever way you look at it, may not be enough to frame the narrative for Moscow.


    It's possible that they also need to be "Arabised" as well, for maximum effect in the ongoing battle of perceptions in the post-9/11 world we live in.


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