Saturday, February 2, 2019
Circassians Seek International Recognition as an Expelled People
Staunton, February 2 – More than five million Circassians live outside of the Russian Federation, the result of the tsarist genocide in which their ancestors were expelled in 1864. Only about 750,000 Circassians still live in the North Caucasus, and fewer than 4,000 Circassians have been allowed to return to their homeland by Russian officials.
Now, Russian officials are seeking to deport some of those Moscow earlier allowed to return, on what appear to be trumped up charges that are to be held in closed courts because, officials say, state secrets are involved, and that almost certainly are intended to send a message that no more Circassians should bother applying.
Moscow appears to have two reasons for opposing the return of Circassians, many of whom live in war-torn Syria. On the one hand, Russian officials fear that some of those returning may bring Islamist values with them and thus undermine Russian security. And on the other, Moscow does not want a mass return that could tilt the ethnic balance in the North Caucasus.
Circassians and Circassian activists are worried about the new moves to deport Circassians who have been able to return and are considering what can be done to prevent yet another injustice being visited upon this long-suffering people.
Anzor Tamov of the Kavkazr portal interviewed three Circassian activists about what is going on and what Circassians and the international community need to do to prevent the situation from getting worse (kavkazr.com/a/cherkesy-narod-izgnannik/29747600.html).
Beslan Khagazhey, a lawyer who works with the Peryt Organization, says that the North Caucasus is “the historic homeland of the Circassians and here they must have the status of compatriots and have equal rights. All that the Circassians want is the right to live legally in their own home.”
A second lawyer from Adygeya who spoke on condition of anonymity said that at present “international law on the Circassian question isn’t working.” The rights of the Circassians are being violated, although in a few cases the Circassian applicants have made mistakes that allow under Russian law for expulsion.
But the head of the Kabardin Congress Aslan Beshto said something needs to be done and soon. Circassians have a good reputation in many countries. “In Europe, America, and in the Middle East, they work for the good of their motherlands. They are Circassians only in terms of ethnic self-consciousness. They have no legal status as Circassians as such.”
One consequence of that, he said, is that they are treated as refugees from the countries they had been living and as having the identity of the majority population, that is, as Arabs if from Syria and Turks if from Turkey. Sometimes the reputation of these groups works against the Circassians.
Beshto called for international recognition of the Circassians as an expelled people. That is necessary, he continued, to stop assimilation and to preserve national identity. And not less it would put the world on the side of those Circassians who want to return from the diaspora to the homeland in the North Caucasus from which they were expelled.