LETTERS: Chechnya, Russia and the right to self-determination

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The Independent Online
From Professor Akbar S. Ahmed Sir: We are horrified to see the situation developing in the manner it is in Chechnya. Once again the might of a state is bombing and butchering innocent civilians.

Here are ordinary peasants fighting, with pitchforks and muskets, a brutal war machine. Once again the only crime of the civilians appears to be the desire for freedom and the salvation of their own culture and identity.

It appears that the world has not learnt any lessons from Bosnia. Unfortunately, Chechnya is outside Europe and therefore the West's attitude seems to have been summed up by the American president, who clearly seemed to signal the Russians to go ahead and murder the Chechens. How would the West have responded if the Russians had used similar tactics in the Baltic states?

Are the Chechens being punished because they are Muslims wanting independence? The questions are once again being asked throughout the world.

Our appeal is that the Russian government stops the killing and talks seriously to the Chechens. We understand that the ordinary people of Russia do not want this butchery. The priorities are rightly economic development and civil society. We have all seen the terrible savagery being inflicted upon the Chechens in the harsh winter conditions. This, first and foremost, must stop.

Yours faithfully, AKBAR S. AHMED (Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge)

TARIQ AZIM-KHAN (Chairman, British Muslim Forum)

ZAKI BADAWI (Director, Muslim College, London)

MARCUS BRAYBROOKE (Chairman, World Congress of Faiths)

The Rev. JIM MAYNORS SABA RISALUDDIN (Calamus Foundation UK)

Royston, Hertfordshire 23 December