On the morning of March 29, during the commuter rush hour, two explosions occurred in the Russian subway system killing 39 people. At the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, UN Security Council members, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and others have condemned the attacks. US President Obama and other world leaders also condemned the attacks.
The Security Council stated that, “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation.” They reiterated their determination “to combat all forms of terrorism.”
The blasts in Moscow were detonated about 40 minutes apart by female suicide bombers of suspected Chechen origin. One of the blasts was at the Lubyanka metro station which is near the headquarters of Russia’s security system. The bombers were suspected to be “Black Widows,” women whose husbands, fathers, sons, or brothers have been killed in the conflict. In 2003 two Black Widows were responsible for blasts that killed 14 at a rock concert in Moscow.
The fighting goes back 20 year to the breakup of the Soviet Union. Russians fear an independent state where the majority of the population is made up of Sunni Muslims. In 2002 Chechen separatists took over a Moscow theater and Russian special forces ended up killing 115 hostages and 50 Chechen separatists in their rescue attempt. Chechen rebels, including Black Widows, also took 1,200 hostages at a school in Beslan in 2004. In that rescue attempt 334 hostages and 31 militants were killed.
Moscow-installed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is deeply resented by most Chechens. He wrote after the blasts:
We have always believed and we continue to believe that terrorists must be hunted down and found in their lairs, they must be poisoned like rats, they must be crushed and destroyed.
The struggle against terrorists must involve the toughest measures and defeating this evil with only persuasion and educational measures is impossible.
Such harsh language that refers to a minority group as animals only further aggravates the resolve of such rebels to engage in terrorism because it conveys no message of desire to see them attain a fulfilled life. Yet, it is hard for those who are responsible for security and order not to refer to terrorists with despicable language because they also seem to disrespect the right of the innocent victims of their blasts to achieve a fulfilled life.
Such cycles of violence and resentment that cause further violence can only be ended by transcending the dehumanizing activities of both “oppressor” and “oppressed.” The creation of a sustainable peace requires security and rule of law that allows all people to pursue both religious values and an economic livelihood of their own choosing, so long as that choice does not interfere with the rights of others to do the same. When an established order prevents freedom of religion or the pursuit of prosperity it fosters resentment and violence. However, when a rebel group attempts to impose a regime that denies others these rights it also becomes an oppressor. Good governance, based on principles that allow people to freely pursue their happiness, so long as they do no harm to others in the process, is the corollary of lasting peace and security. There are usually two sides to every story. Perhaps neither the present Chechen regime nor the rebels are blameless.