8th December 1999
Chechnyan genocide: Muslims to see Keith Vaz
A British Muslim delegation led by Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain is seeing Mr Keith Vaz M.P., Minister of Europe, this afternoon to convey the pains, the anguish and the concern felt in the community over the naked terrorism in the North Caucasian Republic of Chechnya. Members of the delegation are:
1. Mr Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General, MCB
2. Mr Tanzeem Wasti, Chairman, International Affairs Committee, MCB
3. Mr Inayat Banglawala, Young Muslims UK
4. Mr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Muslim Parliament
5. Mr Fadi Itani, Islamic Relief
6. Mr Abdul Karim Sheikh, Somali Muslim Association
7. Mr Ibrahimsa Mohammed, Muslim Aid
The gory drama being played out in Chechnya was a stark reminder that Mr Boris Yeltsin’s Russian Federation promises to be no different than the terror regime of the Bolsheviks and Stalin. Perhaps that was not surprising but what seemed to be shocking was the virtual indifference of the international community suggesting even possible sympathy for Moscow on the part of some.
More seriously this was another case in which, like many others, the British Muslims felt that British foreign policy seemed to be still struggling with its avowed objective of being ethical and concerned with violation of human rights anywhere in the world. For one thing the British policy appears to be constructed on an uncritical acceptance of the pre-invasion Russian propaganda against ‘Chechen terrorism’ even while politicians and observers in Russia itself were saying that the couple of bomb explosions in Moscow were the work of Russia’s own dirty tricks department, albeit with the help of Chechen criminals. This was in order to deflect attention from high place corruption in the Kremlin as well as to win the forthcoming Duma and next year’s presidential elections.
The British policy gave a carte blanche to the Kremlin to violate its own agreement with Chechnya and to go on to bomb and flatten out the tiny republic as well as to indiscriminately kill its civilian population – because it was hiding a ‘couple of terrorists.’ It also amounting to laying down and a new international convention permitted ‘state terrorism’ against a whole nation because it was harbouring a few alleged terrorists.
The MCB welcomed Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s statement in the Commons yesterday but found that it was more loaded with adjectives than promising any tangible action. What he appeared to be saying to Moscow was simply this: We share your sense of threat, so finish the job quick and fast and do not do it so crudely as to cause embarrassment to all of us.
Iqbal Sacranie said that the delegation was going to urge the Minister to back up its ‘wholehearted’ condemnation with immediate and specific action such as:
(1) imposing and not merely threatening sanctions; and
(2) obtaining access for humanitarian bodies to carry out relief work inside Chechnya itself.
Probably it was still going to be too little too late, but this is the least the British government ought to do. This was another opportunity for Britain to take the lead in international affairs and, added Iqbal Sacranie, we must not fail.
NOTE: The meeting will take place at the Foreign Office at 6:30 p.m. and the media are welcome.