“Counter-terrorist operation” continuing in Dagestan village of Gimry
By Saida Kantysheva, special to Prague Watchdog
DAGESTAN - In the heart of the mountains of Dagestan there is a holy place of great natural beauty – the Avar aul of Gimry. Even now, on arriving in this village one is caught up in the atmosphere of a different way of life, and feels oneself transformed.
Picturesque Gimry is situated at the foot of the Gimry Ridge in the Untsukulsky district of Dagestan. It is surrounded on all sides by beautiful mountains. Near it flows one of the region’s most important mountain rivers – the Avarskoye Koysu. It was in this river that the future Imam Shamil fought with a huge serpent which had been preying on the villagers’ cattle and poultry. Not far from the village was Gimry Forest, where Shamil and the first real Imam of Dagestan and Chechnya, Gazi-Magomed Gimrinsky, spent much time in their childhood, and where – according to legend – the Prophet himself appeared to them.
Today, the village has now been under siege for more than a month. How long the “counter-terrorist operation" that is taking place there will last remains to be seen. The pretext for this large-scale action was the murder in Gimry on December 10 of Dagestan member of parliament Gazimagomed Magomedov.
A few days after that incident, on December 15, the operative staff of the Federal Antiterrorism Committee began to conduct an anti-terrorist operation in Gimry against the local armed gangs, which have allegedly been involved in the many audacious crimes which have been committed in the republic over the past few years.
The village was cordoned off by Dagestan police and interior ministry troops called in from other regions of Russia, as well as by Russian OMON riot police. Heavy armour was also brought in. Aircraft frequently flew over the village, bombing the area nearby.
According to some reports, a curfew lasting from 10pm to 6am has been imposed in the village, though the authorities call it "a recommendation not to go out at night". The village is subject to a strict passport regime, with law-enforcement officers going from house to house, checking documents, compiling lists and combing the area close to the village.
Initially the village was completely blocked off – all approaches and entrances to it were closed. Recently limited entry and exit has been allowed, though only for people who work outside the village or who need to visit the hospital for treatment, and such persons must be on an official list and show a special pass.
At present it appears that the villagers are not being harmed, though at the beginning of the operation cases of this were observed. Initially all the relatives of the man who killed the member of parliament were placed under arrest, irrespective of who was to blame.
The special operation has touched the lives of everyone in Untsukulsky district. Checkpoints have been set up along the roads, all the way from Makhachkala, and people are checked at every barrier. The Gimry Tunnel which connects the village with central Dagestan has been closed.
When one asks residents of Gimry and the whole district about the situation in the village, they seem to try to justify the law-enforcers’ actions and their presence in the village, stressing that the forces are not there of their own volition and are merely doing their job. But, at the same time, people are naturally afraid.
What is the point of keeping people in a state of tension and depression like this? Even if the gunmen who are wanted by the authorities did previously live in the village, they must surely have found a way to escape by now, and would not remain in a place which had been cordoned off. Men who grew up in this area would easily be able to find their way and would be familiar with routes in and out of the village unknown to people from outside. Moreover, the village of Gimry, which has suffered more than any other and still bears the scars of the first Caucasus war, is prepared for attacks from outside and has adapted to them.
One wants to hope that Gimry will be able to withstand all these difficulties and ordeals, and that it will preserve its pure religious spirit.
An extended version of this article is available in Russian.
View other photos from the album "Gimry"
(Translation by DM)
(T) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Interview with Gazimagomed Magomedov (Molodyozh Dagestana, 13.4.2007)