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Religion vs the State


Imperator Azenquor
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OOC: IC responses to this story as it develops are welcomed and encouraged.

IC:
[b][u]BCNA News: Hijab ban begins amidst protests[/b][/u]


[i]“The controversial ban on Islamic head coverings, including the hijab, entered into force today after a regional court dismissed a challenge to its constitutionality. The law, which prohibits the wearing of any form of Islamic head covering in public or in any government building or institution in East Ingushetia was signed by Regional Governor Ourumov this morning despite loud opposition.

Three protests against the new law took place in the regional capital Esternaya today. At each protest, there were approximately 2,000 women clad in headscarves, carrying signs and chanting slogans against the new law. These protests were peaceful and attracted significant interest by passersby, but appear to be having little to no effect on the East Ingushetia regional government. The initial response to the protest by police was muted, however as the protests dragged on for several hours, police officers began to intervene. According to reports from some of those present, the police officers requested that the women remove their headscarves or be fined for violating the new law. Hundreds of the protesters left the venue, while those who remained behind refused to comply. The police officers again requested that the women comply with their instructions. Once they refused, police officers then began to detain the protesters.

According to lawyer Dr. Nadya Zhukova, 272 women are now in police custody and have been charged with violating the headscarf ban and holding an unauthorized protest. The women, she said, have been placed in temporary detention facilities where they will await their hearings tomorrow afternoon. Dr. Zhukova, who is representing the women, has expressed outrage after learning that the authorities removed the women’s headscarves once they were placed in custody, despite their firm objections. The Islamic Women’s Council (IWC) of East Ingushetia has also expressed its outrage at the treatment of the women in custody.

At the Esternaya University, students who turned up for classes while wearing headscarves were asked to remove them, and turned away by university administrators if they refused to do so. The administrators cited the new law as the reason for doing this, and declined to comment when asked about the situation. The Esternaya Students Union (ESU) is currently locked in a meeting to decide how to respond to the new law, and the actions of the university administration.

In other news, the Islamic Association of East Ingushetia (IAE) has begun efforts to lobby for the repeal of the new law. The IAE’s efforts are two fold. The organization has launched a push to have legislators withdraw the law, and a push to have the courts invalidate the law. Now only time will tell if the current protests will gain momentum, or if the regional government will have its way.”[/i]-Reporter

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The Xinyan Republic agrees with the decision of Regional Governor Ourumov in this case. If a citizen wishes to practice their beliefs in private, they are welcome to do so. Religion has no place in government or state, and no one has any right at all to preach their religions upon others in public.

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The United Federation of the East's government would not comment on the law saying it was an internal matter, however foreign correspondents in country would portray the story sympathetically to the position of the UFEs allied government and not the protestors who were portrayed as lawless.

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[b][u]BCNA News: Charges upheld against protestors[/b][/u]


[i]“Despite a valiant and impassioned defense by their legal counsel, Dr. Zhukova, the 272 women who were charged with violating the new law have been found guilty. In a series of trials which lasted more than 20 hours in total, State Prosecutors outlined their case against the women and stressed their ‘deliberate and premeditated violation’ of the law. The dramatic trial was delayed for several minutes when the presiding judge ordered the women to remove their headscarves while in the Courtroom. The women refused to comply and were made to do so by Court officers.

The Court listened to detailed testimonies from each of the women, several police officers and witnesses before the Judges withdrew to deliberate. Twenty minutes later, the judges emerged and handed down their rulings. According to the judges’ statement, the state had ‘sufficiently proven that each of the women was fully aware of the law and the consequences of violating the law when they decided to protest’. The judges declared that the protest was illegal in and of itself as no permit was issued by the Regional Governor of East Ingushetia. They also stated that the women had ‘several opportunities to comply with the instructions of police officers on the scene, but elected to deliberately ignore these instructions and to continue their illegal actions’. Accordingly, the judges declared, the women would face the maximum penalties allowed for their illegal activities.

As some of the women began to shout angrily at the presiding judges, the judges read out their sentences. For violating the ban on headscarves, each woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined B$60,000. For holding a protest without a permit, and for disobeying the instructions of an officer of the Guardians of the Peace of the Serene Republic (GPSR), each woman received an additional 20 days in jail and 1 year probation. In total, each of these women has been sentenced to a surprising 50 days behind bars.

Visibly saddened by the result, defense counsel Dr. Nadya Zhukova announced her intention to launch immediate appeals on behalf of her clients. Dr. Zhukova also announced the start of proceedings to challenge the legality of the headscarf ban. Dr. Zhukova has recently received the backing of the National Women’s Rights Association (NWRA) which has vowed to foot the bill for the legal challenge, and to pay the costs for the appeals. In a surprise move, however, the NWRA called on women in East Ingushetia to ‘temporarily halt protests’ until the legal challenge makes its way through the courts.

In other news today, a student at the Esternaya University, who refused to remove her hijab when ordered by university administrators to do so has chained herself to a fence and has announced that she is on a hunger strike. Two hours later she was joined by another eight students.

Adding to the tension in the region, a right wing MRP* of the Union of Patriotic Right Forces (PRF) declared that the government should ‘systematically demolish the mosques in East Ingushetia’ as they are ‘meeting places for those who seek to undermine the Christian Orthodox identity of the state’ and ‘are frankly an eyesore’. The MRP went on to congratulate Governor Ourumov for ‘standing up for the preservation of Vaulian culture’ and vowed to support him. Other parties in the Regional Parliament of East Ingushetia condemned the statements almost immediately and have called for the MRP to be censured by the Parliament.”[/i]-Reporter

*MRP- Member of the Regional Parliament

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[quote name='Imperator Azenquor' timestamp='1301613737' post='2681697']
Adding to the tension in the region, a right wing MRP* of the Union of Patriotic Right Forces (PRF) declared that the government should ‘systematically demolish the mosques in East Ingushetia’ as they are ‘meeting places for those who seek to undermine the Christian Orthodox identity of the state’ and ‘are frankly an eyesore’. The MRP went on to congratulate Governor Ourumov for ‘standing up for the preservation of Vaulian culture’ and vowed to support him.
[/quote]
The Xinyan Republic is disappointed to hear this as an advocate of irreligious government and atheism in the state. Places of worship for one religion are no better than places of worship for another.

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[b][u]BCNA News: Anger rises as Governor addresses Parliament [/b][/u]

[i]“In East Ingushetia, outrage at the new headscarf law has continued to build as Regional Governor Ourumov made a confrontational speech to the Regional Parliament. The Governor made no apologies for the new law and vowed to make no concessions to the protestors. The governor also chastised local Muslim leaders for unnecessarily stoking tensions in the region for political gain. Governor Ourumov also revealed plans to increase developmental aid to certain areas of East Ingushetia dominated by ethnic Vaulians, which will widen the already significant gap in funding between Vaulian and Ingush areas of the region.

Several times during the Governor’s speech, he was interrupted by protesters in the public gallery above. Each time, the Governor insisted that the Parliamentary Security forces remove the individuals from the chamber.”[/i]-Reporter

===

[quote][b]==Governor Ourumov Speech to Parliament==[/b]

“My esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, welcome.

In the past few days we have seen protests across this region which have been instigated at the behest of certain religious organizations with political aims. These organizations have sought to gain social and political influence by portraying the secularism of the state as a threat against their religion. They have sought to portray their struggle as one for the rights of women, while clinging to an outdated practice themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, these individuals must not and will not be allowed to prevail against the state. Not here, and not now.

The law, which was approved by the majority of this chamber, and upheld by the courts, will not be changed at the behest of these organizations. All citizens of the Serene Republic of Vaule, including those living in East Ingushetia, must follow the law. Failure to do so has consequences. No one in this country should hold their religion in a higher regard than their citizenship and loyalty to the state. Such individuals do not belong here and have no right to reap the benefits that thousands of generations of Vaulian citizens have fought and died for.

Let me be clear, we are not saying that women are forbidden to wear the hijab, nor are we suggesting that they be prohibited from freely practicing their religion. Instead, we are saying that in the public domain, on college campuses and in state buildings, no one is permitted to wear a headscarf of any kind. This is not an attack on Islam. It is a matter of upholding secularism and increasing security. We will not allow the secularism of the state to be gradually chipped away by religious groups. I also take this opportunity to call upon those groups who are instigating these protests to desist from doing so immediately. Failure to do so shall have consequences. Organizations which blatantly encourage individuals to violate the laws of the state, can not and will not be allowed to stand aside, blameless.

I will also take this opportunity to address those who are protesting. Continue to do so, for it is your right. However we will not be reversing course. You can protest and shout until you are blue in the face, it is irrelevant. Your attempts to undermine the law will fail. Your attempts to undermine secularism in this country will fail. If you are not willing to follow the laws of this country, perhaps you should find another country.

In closing, I have been asked by my colleague the Finance Minister to issue a statement regarding the East Ingushetia Infrastructure Development Fund (EIIDF). I am pleased to announce that more than B$27 billion from the fund has been allocated to infrastructure projects across this region, with a further B$18 billion earmarked for future projects. Regarding the allegation that these projects are being allocated to areas with an ethnic Vaulian majority, I say that this is not the case. The demographics of a region are not a factor in the allocation of these infrastructural projects and are thus not a primary concern of the Regional Government at this time. We intend to increase developmental aid to Esternaya and the North East Oblast, as we have identified a need for such a financial infusion. The fact that these areas are dominated by ethnic Vaulians has not factored into this decision. Claims to the contrary are, frankly, laughable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Regional Parliament, I thank you for your time.”-Governor Ourumov[/quote]

====

[quote] [b]Private Message to the Government of the Commonwealth of Buryatia
Fr: Islamic Women's Council (IWC), Serene Republic of Vaule[/b]

Given the common history of both our nations, and the power that your nation has to influence the positions of the government of the Serene Republic. We petition you, on behalf of the women of East Ingushetia, to impress upon the government of the Serene Republic, your fellow Commonwealth nation, the importance of respecting religion and the rights of women.

We shall continue to try to make our voices heard, but your assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Signed,
IWC Executive Board
[/quote]

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[quote]

[b]Private Message to the Islamic Women's Council (IWC), Serene Republic of Vaule
From: Government of the Commonwealth of Buryatia[/b]

The Commonwealth of Buryatia is a firm believer in religious tolerance no matter what. We feel that the current banning of the Hijab in East Ingushetia is a step in limiting religous freedom in Vaule. We will try to put forward your views as diplomtically as possible and we promise to help solve the dispute.

Signed,
Commonwealth of Buryatia Government
[/quote]



[quote]


[b]Private Message to the Government of the Serene Republic of Vaule
From: Government of the Commonwealth of Buryatia[/b]

The Commonwealth of Buryatia wishes to inquire about the motives behind the recent banning of the Hijab and the rights of the Muslim Population in East Ingushetia. We feel that this will create a negative picture of your nation and diminish the opinion on your policies concerning religious tolerance. We believe that the freedom to practise religious beliefs in public is a right that all must have.

Please get back to us as soon as possible on this matter.

Signed,
Commonwealth of Buryatia Government
[/quote]

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The response from the Vaulian government was as tactful and diplomatic as possible:

[quote]
[b]To: Government of the Commonwealth of Buryatia
Fr: Government of the Serene Republic of Vaule [/b]

The government of the Serene Republic of Vaule considers the situation in the East Ingushetia Autonomous Region to be a matter of internal policy. We understand the deep historic and political links between our two nations, especially in bordering areas. We urge the government of Buryatia to view the law in perspective.

To put the situation in perspective, it is first necessary to understand that the law does not infringe upon the rights of individuals to practice their religion. The law simply seeks to uphold the ideals of a secular state and to limit the overlap between religion and the affairs of state. The law does not single out Islam, nor does it infringe upon the ability of Muslims to practice their faith.

Secondly, as the law and its implementation are the responsibility of the regional government of East Ingushetia, the national-level state institutions of the Serene Republic shall not overrule the regional government since the law does not violate the Constitution. As with any accountable system of government, there are avenues available to those who wish to challenge this law.

Finally, it has come to our attention that your intervention in this matter was made at the behest of the Islamic Women’s Council (IWC) of East Ingushetia. This is concerning as it is shocking that a religious organization would seek the intervention of another nation in a legal matter. After consultations with the East Ingushetian Regional Government, the decision was taken by the Regional State Prosecutor to take legal action against the IWC.
[/quote]

[b]**Classified Actions**[/b]

A highly classified order is sent to the Special Operations Bureau (SOB) of the Guardians of the Peace of the Serene Republic (GPSR). The directive authorized the immediate wiretapping and interception of all communications and e-mails to or from the Islamic Women's Council (IWC) or the National Islamic Council (NIC).

[quote]
[b]To: Government of Buryatia
Fr: Islamic Women's Council (IWC)[/b]

We thank you for your efforts on our behalf. It is indeed reassuring that our brothers and sisters in Buryatia are willing to help put our case forward. We seek nothing but what should be a fundamental freedom. We shall redouble our efforts to see the new law repealed by lobbying MRPs and taking legal action.

We would like to request a meeting with the Buryatian Ambassador to Vaule in order to brief him on the situation and to coordinate our efforts. [/quote]

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[quote]
[b]To: Government of the Serene Republic of Vaule
Fr: Government of the Commonwealth of Buryatia[/b]

We thank you for the clarification. We will be no longer making any further questions. We hope that no offense had been caused over the matter.
[/quote]


[quote]
[b]To: Islamic Women's Council (IWC)
Fr: Government of the Commonwealth of Buryatia[/b]

We would like to respectfully decline the invitation. We feel that this is an internal issue and we do not wish to cause a diplomatic incident between us and Vaule.
[/quote]

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  • 2 weeks later...

[b][u]BCNA News: Protesters occupy East Ingushetia Square [/b][/u]


[i]“After an unusual period of calm, opponents of the ban on headscarves in East Ingushetia have taken to the streets in large numbers. The protest, which was called by the Union of Islamic Scholars, drew thousands and thousands of people into the streets. The protest began as a peaceful march to the center of the city of Esternaya, and ended with the protesters occupying the regional capital’s Yekaterina Square. The protesters were soon joined by opponents of Regional Governor Grigori Ourumov.

Moments ago, the protesters barricaded themselves inside the square and have vowed not to leave until the headscarf ban is repealed and Governor Ourumov is removed from office. Several protesters donned headscarves in an act of defiance against the ban. The protest leaders have also begun seeking 30,000 signatures for a petition to remove the Regional Governor. Such a petition would be presented to the legislature and to the Imperator’s Office to urge them to consider removing Governor Ourumov from office. Such a move is not without controversy as Governor Ourumov is not an elected official.

When we contacted the Office of the Regional Governor, Governor Ourumov refused to give a detailed statement but suggested that the protest is illegal and has not been authorized by the appropriate government agency. The Governor also took the opportunity to issue an ultimatum: ‘If the protesters do not disperse within 24 hours, the state will take action against them’, but refused to clarify what the nature of such action would be.

In other news, a 16 year old girl who refused to remove her hijab when ordered to do so by school officials has been expelled from her High School. Our news team understands that after she refused to leave, school security officials forcibly ejected her from the building and confiscated her hijab. Her parents have expressed their outrage at the decision of the school and have vowed to begin a lawsuit against them.”[/i]-Reporter

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[b][u]BCNA News: Protesters surrounded as deadline nears [/b][/u]


[i]“With less than 8 hours remaining until the government deadline, the protesters gathered in Yekaterina Square show no signs of dispersing. Instead, protesters appear to be digging in and preparing for a major confrontation with the Regional government. According to reports, protesters have massed at the Obelisk of the Unknown Heroes, a towering monument dedicated to civilians who died under the brutal fist of communism. Protest organizers have called for calm as the deadline approaches.

On the other side, Regional Governor Ourumov has ordered the deployment of thousands of Riot Police and GPSR officers around the square. The security forces have taken up strategic positions around the square and at all major entry points. As of ten minutes ago it is no longer possible to enter or leave the square due to a series of police roadblocks and checkpoints. One of our reporters, who visited one such checkpoint, reported the presence of Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and electronic jamming equipment. He also reported the presence of a high-level military officer from the Organization of the Zodiac (OZ) Special Forces.

The Office of the Regional Governor has declared that the East Ingushetia Autonomous Region is ‘in a state of total normality, with the exception of an unauthorized protest underway in the regional capital’. The statement went on to suggest that the regional government would ‘use the full force of law to restore normality’ and to ‘take steps to prosecute individuals who have decided to flagrantly disregard the rule of law’. When our news team contacted the Regional Governor’s office for a clarification we were informed that Governor Ourumov would not be issuing any further statements.

The situation in East Ingushetia has now attracted national attention, with Prime Minister Svatek heading to the region for a meeting with Governor Ourumov and the head of the GPSR in East Ingushetia. We understand that the situation has also been brought to the attention of the Office of the Imperator. With a continuing economic crisis and high unemployment, the Prime Minister will undoubtedly receive harsh criticism for abandoning national issues to sort out a regional problem.

In other news, the Supreme Court of the Serene Republic has, in a landmark ruling, upheld the headscarf ban in East Ingushetia, rejecting an impassioned appeal by representatives of the Islamic Women’s Council (IWC). The ruling, which was handed down after only half an hour of deliberations, states that the ban does not violate the Constitution of the Serene Republic and does not affect or hinder any individual from freely practicing his or her faith. The Court rejected the notion that the ban was preventing conservative Muslim women from accessing state services and education in East Ingushetia. The Court, however, also ruled that the ban must be applied equally to all people in East Ingushetia, and that all headscarves (not just the hijab and burqa) are banned under the law.”[/i]-Reporter

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[b][u]BCNA Breaking News: Casualties reported as Police forces storm Square [/b][/u]

[IMG]http://i328.photobucket.com/albums/l358/ImperatorAzenquor/101666025.jpg[/IMG]
-GPSR Units advance

[i]“Moments ago, the deadline for all protesters to withdraw from Yekaterina Square expired. Almost immediately the combined GPSR and Riot Police forces began their rapid advance into the square. This advance was spearheaded by several APCs which were used to demolish roadblocks and barricades, in order to clear a path for Riot Police to enter the square. The rapid advance of armed GPSR officers followed shortly thereafter.

The Commander of the GPSR in East Ingushetia, who was at the scene, refused to permit press access during the operation, despite repeated requests from our news team to do so. As the operation got underway, our reporters outside of the square reported hearing heavy gunfire from the direction of the square. There were also several reports that the air was thick with tear gas.

Ten minutes into the operation, our news team received a call from one of the protest organizers who remains inside Yekaterina Square. This individual, who asked us not to state his name on camera, has claimed that 8 civilians have been killed since the start of the Riot Police advance into the Square. The individual claims that 2 women and a child are among the casualties. He also made the explosive claim that there are Organization of the Zodiac (OZ) Special Forces troops amongst the GPSR forces, and that they are using live ammunition. At this time, we are unable to confirm or deny the allegations made by this individual due to the limitations placed on our access to the scene; however our news team can declare that the individual who has made the claims is a reliable source.

Our attempts to further discuss the situation with our source in the Square were unsuccessful as the call was disconnected. Attempts to call again or to call other individuals known to be at the protest have proven futile.

When we contacted the Organization of the Zodiac (OZ) HQ in Sygh-Varthys, a spokesperson for the military branch refused to state that no troops were present, but also did not refute the allegation either. He said that:

‘Troops from the Organization of the Zodiac are deployed as decided upon by OZ Commanders and by His Highness the Imperator. I will not confirm or deny the allegation that OZ troops have been deployed to Yekaterina Square, as it is not the policy of OZ to announce current or potential deployments of forces or the locations of said forces. I will, however state that any OZ troops present in East Ingushetia are those that are based there.’

We will continue to follow this breaking news story as it develops.”[/i]-Reporter

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[b][u]BCNA News: First casualties confirmed as operation continues[/b][/u]


[i]“We are now able to confirm that 18 civilians have been killed during the Riot Police advance into Yekaterina Square. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Esternaya Regional Hospital has reported receiving the bodies, and has also reported treating 24 people for moderate to serious injuries. According to his statement, the dead include 5 women and a child. Also, the CMO reported that 4 Riot Police officers were also among the dead. Autopsies have not yet been conducted.

Our reporter at the Esternaya Regional Hospital has told our news team that several of the injured people at the hospital have wounds consistent with injuries from live ammunition. Some of the injuries are very serious. Our reporter attempted to interview some of the injured civilians, but was ordered to leave the hospital by a GPSR officer.

The security forces’ operation in Yekaterina Square has now entered its second phase. We understand that the combined Riot Police/GPSR task force has secured the northern and western parts of the Square, and has managed to disperse or detain several protesters. According to the initial reports from the GPSR Commander, 147 protesters have been arrested since the operation began, and a further 210 were questioned and released by the GPSR. The GPSR Commander also confirmed that there have been casualties as a result of the operation thus far, but that the security forces hold their duty to protect the lives of civilians paramount. The GPSR Commander also declined to give a specific number of casualties, and instead stated that there have been casualties on both sides so far.

According to our reporters outside the square, hundreds of protesters have been dispersed by the security operation so far; however the main group of protesters remains defiantly in the center of the square. As we understand it, the second phase of the security operation is to disperse the remaining protesters and to force them to exit the square in an orderly manner.

In other news, Prime Minister Svatek held a 5 hour long meeting with Regional Governor Grigori Ourumov regarding the developing situation in Yekaterina Square. It is understood that the Prime Minister expressed his concern about the situation to the Regional Governor, and impressed upon him the need to resolve the situation quickly and responsibly. The Prime Minister has also called on the Regional Governor to ensure that the allegations of civilian casualties are thoroughly investigated and that the security forces continue to act in a professional manner.”[/i]-Reporter

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[b][u]BCNA News: Grand Imam disappears as casualties mount [/b][/u]


[i]“The situation in Yekaterina Square continues to unfold as we receive news of even more casualties. According to surgeons at the East Ingushetia Regional Hospital, the number of casualties so far has risen to 34. This figure includes 10 G.P.S.R. officers and 24 protesters. The number of injured has also risen sharply in the past few hours, from 24 to 59. Of those injured, 32 are seriously injured, while the rest are said to be only moderately injured. Again, surgeons have confirmed that most of the injured are suffering from gunshot wounds.

Meanwhile, in the Square, the GPSR has intensified its efforts to disperse the remaining protesters encamped there. According to unofficial reports from officers on the scene, at least 672 protesters have been detained so far. Of these, at least 281 are women. According to a spokesperson for the Islamic Women’s Council (IWC), the women are being held at a military detention facility in the north of the province while they await trial. The IWC has expressed concern about the move to detain the women and has also expressed concern over reports that the women were forced to remove their headscarves while in custody.

In other news, the Grand Imam of East Ingushetia disappeared last night after publishing a statement that was highly critical of the regional government. According to the Imam’s family, soldiers arrived at his residence shortly after midnight last night. We understand that the Imam was questioned by the soldiers about his political activity before he was detained. His family contacted the Office of the Regional Governor for information, but was informed that the Imam ‘is not in the custody of the military or the GPSR’ and that ‘no warrant for his arrest was issued by the Regional Government’. Several of the Imam’s colleagues have expressed alarm at his disappearance and are worried that they could be next.

Also in the news, Prime Minister Svatek issued another statement about the situation in East Ingushetia in which he expressed his ‘full faith in the Regional Government’s ability to restore normality’ and again urged all state forces to ‘maintain their professionalism’. The Prime Minister ended his unscheduled visit to the region with a visit to an Orthodox Church in the north of the province. He is expected to return to Sygh-Varthys later this afternoon. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has stated that he will continue to monitor the developments in East Ingushetia until their resolution.”[/i]-Reporter

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[b][u]BCNA News: Die hard protesters hang on as Police push forward[/b][/u]


[i]“The sounds of heavy gunfire continue to reverberate from Yekaterina Square tonight as the massive GPSR operation continues. Several protesters have been arrested and dozens have been injured in the last few days as the regional government vows to put an end to the protest once and for all. According to an unofficial statement from the GPSR, 864 protestors have been arrested and 63 rioters were shot, 15 of which succumbed to their injuries. According to the unofficial GPSR statement, there have been 49 other casualties including 13 civilians, 15 GPSR Officers, 20 ‘armed individuals’ and an unidentified military official.

While we are still unable to send reporters into Yekaterina Square due to restrictions by the GPSR on reporting, we received detailed from a credible source at the scene. For security reasons we will not reveal the name of this source or the method by which they sent us this information. According to our source, the GPSR offensive has successfully dispersed the majority of the protestors who gathered in the square. We understand that hundreds of people are being arrested as they attempt to leave the square. The majority of the protesters, we were told, are in the process of attempting to leave the square, however, a core group of protesters has claimed that they will fight until the end.

This core group of protesters also includes several members of the Islamic clergy. These defiant protesters, numbering approximately 300 have barricaded themselves inside the Esternaya Mosque to make their last stand. One of the members of the clergy, Imam Anatoly Karimov issued a written statement which was transmitted to BCNA news. We wish to note that the statement, which was read by GPSR personnel, was immediately condemned by Regional Governor Grigori Ourumov.”[/i]-Reporter


[quote]
[b]Statement by Imam Anatoly Karimov[/b]

As I write this letter, the marble cobblestones of the Yekaterina Square are being stained yet further with the blood of civilians and police officers alike. I must state that any loss of life is a tragedy, and I truly grieve for those who have lost their lives. In situations where sources of impartial information are hard to come by, the truth sometimes becomes blurred beyond recognition by those who seek to portray themselves as having the moral high ground. I can only speak about what I witnessed, or what has been told to me.

It must be stated that the protests, in the beginning, were entirely peaceful in nature. We had no violent intentions in mind. We instead wished to voice our opposition to a system of laws which seeks to isolate the members of our faith from mainstream society one law at a time. By no means am I calling for the introduction of Sharia law, as is commonly the conclusion that some arrive at when an Islamic clerical figure criticizes the law. Our supporters came out in large numbers to support our cause and to send a clear message to our government that they are accountable to us.

When the security forces began their charge into the square, most protesters resisted their advance with peaceful acts of civil disobedience. I will acknowledge, however that some protesters resorted to violence against the security forces. These protesters constituted only a handful of those gathered. Nonetheless, the security forces responded with the heavy handed force which is currently on display.

They used a combination of non-lethal and lethal techniques which were a disproportionately forceful response. The shocking willingness of the security forces to use lethal force against unarmed protesters shattered the peaceful nature of our protest. Most protesters either, out of a sense of shock, surrendered immediately in order to avoid further bloodshed, or like myself, have decided to stand firmly against the injustices being committed against us.

The silence of the international community, yet again, is appalling. This begs the question, how many people can a state massacre before it becomes worthy of international attention? How many must be orphaned? How many must be maimed? I could appeal yet again to the international community to act, but it would be of no use. Instead I give this pledge before my Creator and all of mankind:

[b]‘As long as I draw breath, I shall not surrender to those who, before my eyes, murdered the innocent, instead I shall fight with every ounce of my strength until my life is spent. If it is the will of the Creator that I die this day, let me die fighting.[/b]’

Signed,
A.Karimov
[/quote]

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[b][u]BCNA News: Surrounded![/b][/u]


[i] “The situation in Yekaterina Square appears to be nearing its end. An official statement from the Commander of the GPSR, obtained by BCNA News, reveals that the security forces consider their current operations to be 96% complete. According to the statement, all protesters who were present in Yekaterina Square have been dispersed. The statement has also revealed that 528 people have been arrested in connection with the protests so far. Of these, 210 people were arrested for committing acts of violence against state officers or for committing acts of vandalism.

The number of casualties on both sides since the protests began has not yet been officially calculated by the GPSR; however estimates by the Humanitarian Aid Division are that there have been 36 civilian casualties, 25 GPSR Officers and 31 armed individuals. The Humanitarian Aid Division also estimates that more than 300 people have been injured since the start of the protests some weeks ago. The Humanitarian Aid Division, in conjunction with the Office of the State Judicial Prosecutor, has begun a series of thorough investigations into each death and the circumstances surrounding it. The State Prosecutors office is investigating the claim that the GPSR and Riot Police used live ammunition during some confrontations with the protesters, with fatal consequences. A formal preliminary report from the State Prosecutor will be presented to the Parliament next week.

The 300 protesters who have barricaded themselves inside the Esternaya Mosque continue to defy an ultimatum to surrender. In response, the GPSR has surrounded the building, but has so far not attempted to force their way in. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses have collaborated the allegation that troops from the Organization of the Zodiac (Special Forces) are present in Esternaya Square. The OZ troops appear to be primarily in a support role, and have not been reported to be leading the operations in the region.

We will continue to report on developments in East Ingushetia as we receive more information.”[/i]-Reporter

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