MINELRES: Caucasus Reporting Service No. 352 - excerpts

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WELCOME TO IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 352, August 9, 2006

CAUCASUS NEWS UPDATE AUGUST 9

INGUSH-OSSETIAN DISPUTE WORSENS A fresh bout of violence sends relations
between the two North Caucasian neighbours into a new downward spiral.
By Murat Gabarayev in Vladikavkaz

GEORGIA AWASH WITH CHINESE BARGAINS Chinese business floods into
Georgia, but little flows in the opposite direction. By Eter
Mamulashvili in Tbilisi 

AZERBAIJANIS SEEK FOREIGN PARTNERS Social taboos are slowly being lifted
on women marrying men from other countries. By Samira Ahmedbeili in Baku

ARMENIA: MULTI-ETHNIC MATCHES SPURNED Marrying a foreigner in Armenia,
especially an African, can cause raise eyebrows.
By Nune Hakhverdian in Yerevan 

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.......................

INGUSH-OSSETIAN DISPUTE WORSENS

A fresh bout of violence sends relations between the two North Caucasian
neighbours into a new downward spiral.

By Murat Gabarayev in Vladikavkaz

The most neglected conflict in the Caucasus is showing worrying signs of
heating up, after a string of violent attacks last month and angry
protests by refugees. 

North Ossetian leader Taimuraz Mamsurov has accused officials from
neighbouring Ingushetia of deliberately stirring up the dispute between
the two autonomous republics over the disputed Prigorodny district,
which erupted in violence in 1992. 

"Almost every day, we are catching Ingush deputies and officials in the
settlements of the Prigorodny district and deporting them," said
Mamsurov, accusing the media in Ingushetia of waging an "information
war" against his republic. 

In June, the Ingush parliament adopted a motion calling on Moscow to
return the disputed territories, which belonged to Ingushetia until
1944, and Ingush president Murad Zyazikov said that federal rule should
be established in them.

On July 21, the North Ossetian authorities announced they had prevented
a "major terrorist attack" in their capital, Vladikavkaz, after they
detained three young Ingush men from the village of Kartsa on the
outskirts of the city driving a vehicle, which they said contained a
remote-controlled bomb. 

Relatives of the arrested man said that he was going to a wedding party
and the explosives were planted in his vehicle.

Kartsa has a large population of Ingush as well as Ossetians and
Russians, and was the scene of fierce clashes in 1992 between Ingush
armed groups and Ossetian policemen. The North Ossetian police say it is
a centre of militant activity. 

Alla Akhpolova, spokeswoman for North Ossetia's interior ministry, said
that when, after the July 21 incident, police searched a house in Kartsa
they met armed resistance from an Ingush man Abubakar Khamkhoyev, who
was killed. Khamkoyev later turned out to be an Ingush policeman. One
senior Ossetian policeman, Taimuraz Dzebisov, also died and two of his
colleagues were wounded in the incident.

Ingush residents of Kartsa said Khamkhoyev was killed after he threw
himself on a grenade thrown by the Ossetian policemen, saving his
mother's life. 

Two days later, two other local residents, both ethnic Russians, were
shot at by gunmen from an unmarked car. One of the former died in the
incident. 

Zarema, an Ingush resident of Kartsa, heard the shooting.  "We are
living in fear here," she said. "I am afraid for my sons.  The Ossetian
law enforcement bodies are not able to look after the security of Ingush
citizens.  We've decided to sell our house and move to Ingushetia
-although there is no calm there either."

Ingush-Ossetian relations gradually improved in the decade following the
1992 fighting, when hundreds died and tens of thousands of Ingush fled
North Ossetia for Ingushetia. However, since the Beslan school tragedy
of 2004, when 330 people died and several of the hostage-takers were
Ingush, tensions have risen again. 

Last month, a group of Ingush refugees in the settlement of Maisky on
the border between the two republics began a hunger strike that lasted
24 days, demanding they be allowed to return to their former homes. 

"My friends and I had to resort to extreme measures and declared a
hunger strike," said Ruslan Kushtov. "Our rights have been violated
since 1992.  Ossetian refugees from Georgia live in the house that I
personally own in Yuzhny on the edge of Vladikavkaz and my family has to
shift about in railway carriages.  Why do we have to put up with this?"

"We have been offered money to give up our homes but we are not selling
our homeland," said Idris, who comes from the outskirts of Vladikavkaz,
but now lives in the Ingush village of Karabulak. 

The increased tension comes despite a pledge by Russian president
Vladimir Putin to "eliminate the consequences of the 1992 conflict" by
the end of this year. Putin's representative for the region, Dmitry
Kozak, has made a number of trips to both republics this year to try and
implement this plan.

However, Ossetian sociologist Alexander Dzadziev was sceptical about the
chances of a breakthrough this year, saying all the emphasis was being
put on the issue of refugee return and not on the other problem fueling
the conflict. 

"They are just dealing with eliminating the consequences [of the
conflict], no one is engaging with the issue of restoring good relations
[between Ingushetia and North Ossetia]," he said. 

The hunger strike was called off after the North Ossetian authorities
promised they would register the refugees in their former addresses. But
there is a big gap between formal registration and actually receiving a
home to live in. 

"The North Ossetian leadership has decided to allocate 210 land plots
for forcibly displaced people in Prigorodny district," North Ossetian
nationalities minister Taimuraz Kasayev told IWPR. "In a short period,
we have managed to resolve major organisational, financial, material,
and technical problems, which will allow us to accommodate citizens of
Ingush nationality."

However, a strong atmosphere of distrust is preventing a smooth return
of the refugees and the violence has continued. A senior Ingush police
official, Amirkhan Akhsoyev, died after being attacked in Maisky on
August 2.

"There are forces that are doing all they can to set the Ingush and
Ossetians against each other," warned Myrat-Haji Tavkazakhov, leader of
the Muslim community in North Ossetia. "This should not be allowed. All
disputed issues should be resolved peacefully."

Mikheil, a resident of the village of Tarskoye in the Prigorodny
district, agrees, blaming politicians for stirring up the dispute. "We
go to mosques and ask God to protect people from trouble.  It is time to
bury the axe of war deep in the ground.  No one hinders us from doing
this.  The Ingush and Ossetians want to live without conflicts," he
said.

Alan, an Ossetian resident of Ir, said he was worried. "The federal
authorities are speeding up the return of the Ingush to our villages
but, for some reason, no one has asked us whether we want this or not. 
Isn't it us who have to live with them?  The officials create the
problems and the people have to pay for them," he said.

"Bandits are travelling freely on our territory, building up caches of
weapons and ammunition, and killing people," an angry Ossetian
policeman, who did not want to be named, told IWPR. "It's very hard to
put up with this and it has to stop. There may be retaliation. Russian
law does not seem to be working in the neighbouring republic."

A political commentator in Vladikavkaz, speaking anonymously, ascribed
the latest flare-up to domestic politics in Ingushetia.  "Some forces in
Ingushetia want to expose president Murad Zyazikov or to put pressure on
him by playing on this topic - because Zyazikov is an extremely
unpopular figure in Ingushetia," he said. 

Murat Gabarayev is a reporter Regnum News agency in North Ossetia.

.......................


ARMENIA: MULTI-ETHNIC MATCHES SPURNED 

Marrying a foreigner in Armenia, especially an African, can cause raise
eyebrows.

By Nune Hakhverdian in Yerevan 

Armenia is a practically mono-ethnic state, with very few instances of
mixed marriages, which makes those who do make inter-racial matches
stand out all the more.

"I bring up my children in the spirit of Christianity and I tell them
that all people are equal, regardless of the colour of their skin and
their faith," said Anna, who lives in Yerevan with her Nigerian husband
Michael and their two small sons Joseph and James. 

The two dark-skinned boys do suffer racial abuse in their kindergarten
or on public transport. "I just get furious when they call my children
'negroes'," she said.

"I don't feel comfortable in Yerevan," added Michael, who despite owning
his own business, an Internet cafe, wants to take his family away from
Armenia to a more multi-racial society. 

Despite living in Armenia for nine years, Michael has not integrated
well and speaks only a few phrases of Armenian. 

Michael and Anna's was the first marriage officially registered between
an African and an Armenian, more than ten years ago and it is still a
very rare case in Armenia. 

Ethnographer Hranush Kharatian, who heads the Armenian government's
department on national minorities and religious issues, notes that
Armenians comprise 97.8 per cent of the population and that they have
little experience of interacting with other nationalities. 

She also said that an ancient tradition of self-preservation and of
fostering national identity in the face of adversity had served Armenia
well but carried with it suspicion towards foreigners who wanted to
marry ethnic Armenians, both in Armenia itself and in the worldwide
diaspora. 

Yet this attitude, she said, is prevalent in a society, which suffers
from huge migration problems. 

"I think foreigners in Armenia will definitely encounter problems,"
Kharatian went on. "Our state does not have an active immigration
policy, there is no discussion of attracting new workers or stimulating
population growth. We don't have gaps in our workforce, on the contrary
we don't have enough jobs.

"A person who has an unusual appearance or whose skin is a different
colour tries to lead the life of an ordinary citizen, but the extra
attention he gets from society makes his life public property."  

According to official statistics, in the 18 months between January 2005
and the end of June 2006, there were 864 marriages between Armenians and
foreigners out of a total of 20,000 unions overall.

"I think any of our women who marry blacks are our enemies," said a
middle-aged man with higher education questioned by IWPR on the street
in Yerevan. "Armenian blood should not be mix with the blood of blacks.
If you marry a foreigner then he should at least be white." 

His view was typical of many ordinary Armenians asked to comment on the
issue. 

Murtada came to Armenia from Sudan nine years ago as a tourist and
married an Armenian named Naira. They live in Yerevan and Murtada, who
trained as an economist, works as a driver. 

"I'm not concerned by the extra attention that gets paid to us, but I
worry about Murtada," his wife told IWPR. "He is a very sensitive person
and he can be insulted by a sideways glance."

"I can't hide the colour of my husband's skin," she went on, expressing
hope that their son Bashir, who speaks Armenian like a native will not
suffer from the same problems as his father.   

Mira, who is Korean, moved from Moscow to Armenia with her Armenian
husband Ashot. She said that the two of them, both artists, had
encountered few problems and had had more trouble in Georgia, where they
also lived for several years. 

Ashot acknowledged that it was easier for his wife, an Asian, to fit
into Armenia than for an African to do so. But he said he was worried by
the country's intolerance towards foreigners. "The more developed a
country is the better it treats its foreigners. Poorly developed
countries put obstacles in the way of foreigners," he said.

"We need time to live together so that Armenians get used to the idea
that black-skinned people can adapt to our way of life, speak Armenian
and live like Armenians," said Vladimir Mikaelian, a psychologist. 

He argued that Armenian ignorance about foreigners stemmed from lack of
historical experience rather than sheer prejudice. "We know the customs
of Arabs, Turks and Persians," he said.  "And we get our ideas about
black people from the media and ascribe to them traits which we learn
about second-hand."

Mikaelian also mentioned a good example of racial prejudice being
overcome: the popular television performer Hrant Hovsepian, known as
Blond, who has an Armenia mother and African father.  

"If Armenia wants to develop then it ought to understand that, one way
or another, foreigners will keep on coming here," said Elza Guchinova,
who is herself an ethnic Kalmyk and is doing comparative research on the
mono-ethnic societies of Armenia and Japan. "[Urban centres] all over
the world are ethnically diverse and it's impossible to stop this
process."

Nune Hakhverdian is a reporter for 168 Hours newspaper.

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IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service provides the international community
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ISSN: 1477-7959 Copyright (c) 2006 The Institute for War & Peace
Reporting 

CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE No.
352

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