Staunton, VA, October 17, 2016 – Between 1976 and 1983, police in Argentina arrested and “disappeared” thousands of civilians. The fate of most of these people, known as the desparaecidos, was never determined, although in the event almost all of them were murdered by the authorities.
That sparked protests by their mothers and family members that touched the hearts of people around the world and contributed to demands that the government “come clean” about those who had “gone missing. Ultimately, those who protested over the desaparecidos played a key role in restoring democracy there.
Now, the mothers of young men who have been “disappeared” by the Russian authorities in Daghestan have organized to try to find out what has happened to their sons and to press for change in that North Caucasus republic, despite official denials that there is any such problem and in the face of opposition to the mothers’ efforts by Daghestani and Russian officials.
On October 14, approximately 50 women carrying pictures of their sons assembled in Khasavyurt to demand that the force structures tell them where their children are because the women believe their sons were seized not by militants but by the official force structures.
The women had hoped to hold their demonstration in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan, but they were refused permission to do so. Hence, they met in Khasavyurt, where they were under the surveillance of OMON riot troops the entire time they were meeting, Saida Vagabova of the local publication Chernovik says.
Republic police told the women that they had no information about their sons, and representatives of the North Caucasus Federal District said the same thing in response to inquiries. But the police did what they could to prevent the women from holding this meeting or even asking questions.
Two women who wanted to take part were called in to the police and told that they would be arrested and held for 15 days if they took part. They were unable to attend, but their relatives carrying pictures of the sons of the two did. Whether the mothers of Daghestan will succeed as the mothers of Argentina ultimately did is far from clear.
The Russian authorities control access to that republic far more tightly than did the Argentine police state. But the commitment of the women in the North Caucasus to gain justice for their children is certainly equal to that of the women in Argentina. And as a result, the Russian powers that be may have discovered a force they cannot easily overcome.