Less than two months before the opening ceremonies for the Sochi Winter Olympics, two explosions, set off by suicide bombers, rocked the Russian city of Volgograd.
Hours later, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach condemned the attacks while offering “full support” to Russian authorities fighting “terrorism.”
A noble statement for sure, but in the wake of decades of Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya, perhaps not the wisest of sentiments.
In advance of the upcoming Olympiad, I urge Olympic committees around the globe to withdraw unfettered support from Russia and recognize that there may be more behind the so-called “terrorist” bombings than first meets the eye.
While the motives behind the Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 suicide bombings have yet to be confirmed, all signs point to the attack being perpetrated by rebel groups in Chechnya.
A mountainous region along Russia’s southern boarder, the Chechen region is home to a largely Muslim population, which, for a number of decades, has been fighting for independence.
After Chechnya declared its independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian military brutally crushed what termed a rebellion during two wars, the most recent of which concluded in 2009.
Throughout both conflicts, the Russian military brutally destroyed local infrastructure, installed puppet politicians in the region and quelled resistance of any kind.
Russian officials also kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered countless Chechen civilians.
A RESPONSE BORN
Facing complete annihilation, Chechen rebels have resorted to guerrilla warfare in recent years, carrying out numerous suicide bombings in cities throughout Russia.
Most recently, a Chechen rebel group known as Caucasus Emirate, which is classified by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, vowed to employ “maximum force” to disrupt the Sochi Games.
In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised the “complete annihilation” of the “terrorist” group behind the attack.
MUST STEP UP
While I understand Vladimir Putin’s desire to render justice on those responsible for the bombing, the IOC’s support of the Russian president in his quest is misguided.
As tempting as it might be to label Chechen rebels as terrorists, the fact of the matter is that such individuals often have little choice.
Faced with the kidnapping of family members, the murder of loved ones and the desolation of an entire region, guerrilla tactics often provide the only opportunity for voice.
While I certainly do not condone such attacks, I believe that it is imperative to recognize both sides of the coin.
Too often in today’s society, the term “terrorist” masks deeper issues involving religious persecution, economic inequities and human-rights abuses.
Rather than falling in step behind Russia’s fight against “terror,” the IOC needs step outside the box and recognize the Olympic host’s role in creating the “terrorists” they are now so eager to “annihilate.”
Recognize the human rights abuses by Russia, understand the desperation felt by Chechen rebels and utilize the Sochi Games as a means of shedding light on a dire situation in Chechnya.