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September 24, 2017 No.
7104

Pro-Rohingya Protests In Russia: A Political Vehicle For Kadyrov? – Part I

Protests in support of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims recently inflamed Russia's heavily Muslim Northern Caucasus. Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov took this opportunity to position himself as a religious-political leader, acting as the guarantor of Muslims' rights.

The following is a review of the pro-Rohingya protests in Russia and Kadyrov's role in them.

Protests In Front Of The Myanmar Embassy In Moscow

On September 3, 2017, Muslims in Russia gathered in front of the Myanmar Embassy in solidarity with persecuted Rohingya Muslims in an unauthorized demonstration. According to the Russian media outlet RT, at least 800 demonstrators gathered near the embassy.[1] During the protest, demonstrators were seen performing the Muslim prayer in front of the building.

According to the Russian press, the demonstration in Moscow was organized via social networks (Viber, Telegram and Whatsapp). The call for action included the demonstration's time and place and the following appeal: "Beloved brothers, when you'll be asked on Judgment Day what have you done to help the Rohingya people in Myanmar, who have been killed, how will you answer?"[2]

Gazeta.ru reported that no organization or political figure officially backed the demonstration and that at least in two mosques there were attempts to dissuade worshippers from participation in the demonstration.

A heavy police presence, including OMON special police units was visible near the embassy during the protest. However, security forces did not try to disperse the unapproved demonstration, even when protestors blocked one of the capital's main arteries. The head of the department of regional security, Vladimir Chernikov, was unperturbed: "People are expressing their emotions; there are no signs or written slogans, no unlawful actions. The situation is under control."[3]

The demonstration ended, after participants were informed that Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov and the Russian MFA had said that the point of view of Russian Muslims on the conflict in Myanmar will be brought to the government of this country.[4]

On September 4, the police detained 17 people (15 men and 2 women) outside Myanmar’s embassy in Moscow for disorderly conduct. All the detainees people were from the North Caucasus.[5]

The Russian newspaper Kommersant also stated that the representatives of the Russian Council of Muftis said that no official religious organizations stand behind or support the unauthorized rallies.[6]

The chairman of the Russian Council of Muftis Ravil Gainutdin said: "Frankly, the response of our devout Muslims, who have always set an example of tolerance, patience, and obedience to the law, surprised representatives of spiritual authorities and high-ranking Muslim religious leaders… This is why I call on my fellow believers to remain law-abiding, keep on praying and participate in authorized rallies held by Muslim religious leaders. And such rallies will take place. They are going to be aimed at providing both financial and humanitarian assistance in order to alleviate the plight of our Muslims living in Myanmar… All year, we have been drawing attention to the way that rights are being infringed [in Myanmar], innocent women and children are being killed, genocide of Muslim people is continuing. The borders are closed and they would not let them out, while other countries aren't receiving them, and all of that is resulting in deaths, in a humanitarian disaster. This is inadmissible."[7]

It is worth noting that Gainutdin's associate, Muftis Council Co-Chair Nafigullah Ashirov, took part in the Moscow protest.[8]

https://im5.kommersant.ru/Issues.photo/DAILY/2017/162M/KMO_160418_00032_1_t222_233327.jpg
Demonstration in front of the Myanmar Embassy (Source: Kommersant.com)

https://img.gazeta.ru/files3/326/10872326/upload-IMG_9667-pic905-895x505-55428.jpg
Demonstrators praying in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Moscow (Source: Gazeta.ru)

 

https://img.gazeta.ru/files3/164/10872164/upload-IMG_9634-pic905-895x505-51111.jpg
Heavy police monitored the protest. (Source: Gazeta.ru)

Demonstration In Dagestan

Another unauthorized demonstration in support of the Rohingya Muslims was held in Makhachkala, the Muslim-dominated Dagestani capital, in the Northern Caucasus.[9] It was reported that around 2000 people took part in the rally, which followed a collective prayer.[10]

On September 3, the Muftiate of the Republic of Dagestan wrote in a statement that it has nothing to do with the rallies in Dagestan. The Muftiate also urged Dagestanis not to take actions based on information from social networks.[11]


Rally in Makhachkala (Source: .Kavkaz-uzel.eu)

Statement By The Russian MFA On Myanmar

Honoring its promise to the demonstrators, the Russian MFA published on that very –September 3, an official commentary on the situation in Myanmar:

"We are closely following the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. We are concerned with the reports of continued fighting that has killed civilians and members of the Myanmar Government’s law enforcement agencies, as well as the drastic aggravation of the humanitarian situation in this region of the country. We are urging all the involved parties to launch constructive dialogue as soon as possible for the purpose of normalizing the situation in line with recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by Kofi Annan."[12]

It is worth noting that on August 28, the Russian MFA condemned an attack by the Rohingya Salvation Army in a statement that appeared to side with the Myanmar government:

"On August 25, the Rakhine Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents carried out a series of coordinated attacks against police stations and army units located in three districts of the Rakhine State of Myanmar bordering on Bangladesh killing 11 officers; there are civilian casualties as well.

"We strongly condemn this armed raid aimed at undermining the efforts of the Myanmar authorities and the international community to stabilize the situation in Rakhine State. We believe that resolving the existing complex issues in Rakhine is possible only by political means through a dialogue between representatives of all the ethnicities and religions in the interests of the socioeconomic development of this state.

"We support the efforts of the Government of Myanmar to normalize the situation, including as part of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan."[13]

Kadyrov Against Russia: 'Even If Russia Supports Those Shaytans… I Will Be Against Russia's Position'

On September 3, Kadyrov posted a public statement on his Instagram and YouTube channels, in which he contradicts his previous stances, regarding his unequivocal support of any Russia's policy.

Kadyrov said: "Even if Russia supports those shaytans [devils], who are committing crimes today, I will be against Russia's position. I have my own view, my own position. Erdogan's position is the most open and the best position. We support him". Kadyrov referred to the fact the Turkish Prresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan defined Myanmar's persecution of Rohingya Muslims as genocide.

The Chechen president also added that many people ask him to send troops to Myanmar to protect the Muslim population, but this was not possible since such a decision is a prerogative of the state, while there is "an understanding" (regarding the spheres of authority). He further added :"If it depended on my will [alone] and I had the possibility, I would have struck them with a nuclear attack… I work with all the representatives of the Arab and Muslim states in order to stop that. I personally think we should use force, but now we lack the power… We need to facilitate every possibility in order to help our brothers."[14]


(Source: Youtube.com)

Massive Authorized Demonstration In Support Of Rohingya In Grozny

On September 4, the Chechen Republic's capital Grozny hosted an official authorized demonstration in support of Rohingya Muslims, led by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. According to estimates, more than one million people turned out, an impressive number as the Chechen Republic's total population is about 1.4 million people.

According to the newspaper Kommersant newspaper, the High Council Of Russian Muftis as well as local religious councils have supported the demonstration – which was held under the same slogans as a previous one in Moscow, that the councils opposed.[15]

The protestors drafted a resolution appealing to Putin to use his entire global authority and influence to stop the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.[16]

http://oc-media.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/grozny-myanmar-650x340.jpg
Demonstration in Grozny (Source: Kommersant.ru)


Demonstration in Grozny (Source: Kommersant.ru)

Putin Reacts To Kadyrov's Statement: 'This Should Not Be Viewed As A Rebellion Of Any Kind By The Chechen Leadership'

On September 5, during a press conference following the BRICS Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin was queried about Kadyrov's comments. Putin tried to downplay the situation.[17]

Q: "…Can I ask one question that has to do with domestic affairs as well but is also related to foreign policy? The situation concerning the conflict in Myanmar has given rise to a debate between the federal government and Ramzan Kadyrov who said that if he is not satisfied with Russia’s position on Myanmar, he would be against Russia.

"In your opinion, does a senior official have the right to express a position at odds with the federal government on foreign policy matters, or should this senior official leave?"

Vladimir Putin: "… Regarding Myanmar, I think that after our bilateral meeting with the President of Egypt the press service was supposed to issue a statement on Russia’s shared position with Egypt on the ongoing developments there.[18] We oppose any kind of violence and call on the government of that country to take the situation under its control.

"As for the opinion expressed by citizens of Russia on Russian foreign policy, any person has the right to his or her personal opinion regardless of the position he or she holds.

"This applies to the heads of regions as well. Let me assure you that this should not be viewed as a rebellion of any kind by the Chechen leadership. Everything is fine, no need to worry."


Putin during the press conference (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Kadyrov: 'I'm Putin's Loyal Foot Soldier'

Following Putin's comment, Kadyrov wrote in his Telegram account:

"I'm thankful to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who denounced violence against Muslims and called on Myanmar's authorities to take the situation under control.

"I have said more than once that I'm a loyal foot-soldier of our President, and I'm ready to follow any order, however difficult, given by the supreme commander-in-chief and I'm ready to sacrifice my life…

"I want to stress once again: the religion is and always be my first priority. In my life, I'm afraid only of Allah. Everything I do, I do according to the norms of conduct of a true Muslim…

"Common people often become the victims of political games. Statesmen are becoming hostages of these games. As a consequence, in the 21st century, states, human rights organizations and international frameworks that are expected to support world peace, merely turn a blind eye to the cruel killing of peaceful civilian population, [and] human rights violations.

"There are lots of discussions in the Internet in regard with what I have supposedly said – as if I was ready to question the position of the state's leadership on the outrage perpetrated on Myanmar's Muslims if this position contradicted to my own. As the proverb says: the deaf man imagines things when he does not hear. My words were twisted and distorted and this was done in my estimation intentionally….

"Anyone who heard my speech (there is free access to it) knows what I said and how I said that, and what I meant. I'm absolutely sure that Russia will under no circumstances prevent any measures directed at assisting the oppressed. It also refers to the situation in Myanmar…

"I know Vladimir Putin for more than 15 years and I'm aware of his unequivocal position. I'm glad he voiced it worldwide. Even if the whole world is against him, I'll stand beside him. I'm Putin's foot-soldier… I will never support injustice. Confidence was bestowed upon me to pursue justice. This confidence comes from the wisest and just President and the leader of the nation. Russia is the most just state in the entire world!"[19]

 

More Than 100 Protestors Arrested In St. Petersburg

On September 10, it was reported that 139 protestors at an unauthorized action in support of Rohingya Muslims were detained in St. Petersburg.[20] According to the media, similar actions in many Russian cities came in response to Kadyrov's appeal in support of the Rohingya Muslims.[21]

It is also worth noting that Interfax reported that on September 9, the St. Petersburg administration's department on inter-ethnic relations and migration policy implementation held a meeting with the heads of the representative offices of Muslim-dominated Russian regions. Interfax reported: "The situation in Myanmar was on the meeting's agenda. The participants endorsed an approach to the Muslims of St. Petersburg, urging them to refrain from holding any unauthorized rallies in Russia's northern capital in support of Myanmar Muslims."[22]

Kadyrov Calls For A Halt To All Protest Actions

On September 10, on the same day of the arrests in Saint Petersburg, Kadyrov called on his supporters to halt any protest actions. He wrote in his Instagram account: "At the moment there is no need to hold meetings. If there was a need I would provide the Central Square in Grozny (as the protest place), I would provide everything that would have been needed. I call on my brothers and sisters - Muslims from all over Russia – do not succumb to crude propaganda and do not let someone exploit you for his own interests". Kadyrov added that the Rohingya currently need humanitarian assistance: "We provide it, and call on anyone to extend whatever contribution to a good cause. I say it openly and loudly: if there is a need I will be the first to call on you to participate in demonstrations. Now there is no need."[23]

On September 7, Kadyrov also announced that the Ahmat-Hajji Kadyrov Regional Public Foundation, named after his late father, had started humanitarian aid deliveries to refugees from Myanmar.[24]

 

 

 

[1] Rt.com, September 3, 2017.

[2] Gazeta.ru, September 4, 2017.

[3] Kommersant.ru, September 4, 2017.

[4] Kommersant.ru, September 4, 2017.

[5] Themoscowtimes.com, September 4, 2017.

[6] Kommersant.ru, September 4, 2017.

[7] Interfax-religion.com, September 4, 2017.

[8] Interfax-religion.com, September 4, 2017.

[9] Gazeta.ru, September 4, 2017.

[10] Kavkaz-uzel.eu, September 3, 2017.

[11] Muftiyatrd.ru, September 3, 2017.

[12]Mid.ru, September 3, 2017.

[13]Mid.ru, August 28, 2017.

[14] Youtube.com,

[15] Kommersant.ru, September 5, 2017.

[16] Grozny.tv, September 4, 2017.

[17] Kremlin.ru, September 5, 2017.

[18] On September 4, Russian and Egyptian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah al Sisi met in China. During the meeting, the two leaders condemned violence in Myanmar. Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said: "The two presidents exchanged views on the current situation in Myanmar. Both President Putin and President al Sisi expressed serious concern over the developments in Myanmar and condemned any manifestations of violence regardless of where they come from and against who they are aimed, including against Muslims. They called on the country’s authorities to take the situation under control the soonest possible." (Tass.com, September 4, 2017)

[19] Telegram: Kadyrov_95.

[20] Kavkaz-uzel.eu, September 11, 2017.

[21] Kavkaz-uzel.eu, September 11, 2017.

[22] Interfax-religion.com, September 11, 2017.

[23] Instagram.com/kadyrov_95, September 10, 2017.

[24] Tass.com, September 8, 2017.