My name is Aset Chadayeva. I was trained and worked in Grozny as a pediatric nurse. My human and professional duty is to help people who need medical assistance. During the 1994-1996 Russian-Chechen war and during the war that began in 1999, I worked as a nurse. I tried to help old people, women, children – people who had been brought to the extreme of moral and physical exhaustion. I treated wounded people, sick people, paralyzed people.
I’ve seen incredible, horrible things. I’ve seen men traumatized in so-called “filtration camps.” I’ve seen their bodies scarred by torture, with terrible physical injuries, with fractured limbs, with torn-out nails, with burns from electro-shock torture. People come out of the “filtration camps” in dreadful condition, and they can’t get sufficient medical and psychiatric help.
Young Chechen men living in Chechnya today have two choices: to wage war or to wait for Russian soldiers to arrest or kill them. All three of my brothers were illegally detained by Russian servicemen. One of my brothers - officially classified as disabled because of his poor eyesight - was severely beaten by Russian soldiers in my presence. When I asked the soldiers why they were arresting him, they told me: “He’s a Chechen! That’s reason enough!”
I treated women who had been raped by Russian soldiers, and I’ve also seen the bodies of women who had been killed after being raped.
During both wars, I buried many dead. Bodies were left lying in the streets. I, my brothers, and my neighbors collected them so they wouldn’t be eaten by dogs.
On February 5, 2000, I was at home in Aldi. (Aldi is a suburb of Grozny, ten minutes by car from the city center.) The day before, on February 4, after the earlier fighting, seven hundred civilians were still living in Aldi; they thought the war was over for them. Many had been wounded during the Russian bombardment of Aldi. There were sick people, old people, women and children, all exhausted by the war.
On February 5, 2000, more than 100 Russian contract soldiers entered Aldi and conducted a “cleansing operation.” They threw grenades into basements where people were hiding. They executed unarmed men, women, old people and children. Sixty civilians were killed by Russian soldiers on February 5. The victims ranged in age from a one-year-old baby to an eighty-two-year-old woman. They killed a woman who was eight months pregnant and her one-year-old son. All my patients who had been wounded during the bombings, who were getting well, were killed and their bodies burned.
The Russian officer knew I was a nurse. He took me by the sleeve and said that his soldiers had killed several Chechen men by mistake on the next street; he ordered me to organize their burial. Some men were wounded. I saved one, but another man who had been shot in the stomach died the next day.
The soldiers set fire to many homes, leaving the survivors without shelter. A soldier pointed to the burning homes and said to me: “We’ll destroy all of Chechnya this way. You see your city? We’ll flatten Chechnya!”
The Russian soldiers committed serious war crimes in Aldi on February 5, 2000, more than two years ago. No one in the Russian military has been arrested or held accountable. We have witnesses to the crimes, we have photographs of the murdered persons, the killers can be identified. But no one has been arrested for these crimes. The case has been suspended or closed. Recently, the Russian Procurator’s Office informed those who inquired about its status: “Russian troops were not present in Aldi on February 5, 2000.”
In 1995 I was a witness to an earlier crime. I was standing in line together with some fifty people from Aldi to get water from a spring. Russian tanks were moving past us. One tank intentionally crushed a car. Inside the car were my neighbors, Yakub Shamilyov and his daughter. They were killed instantly. The Russian soldiers in the tank were drunk. They said: “If you move from here, we’ll open fire.” They weren’t arrested. They weren’t punished.
Seven years later, just this past April, 34-year-old Leche Shamilyov, Yakub’s son, was shot and killed by Russian soldiers in front of his home. They were in a tank. They weren’t arrested. They ween’t punished.
I know of dozens of incidents like this. A crime is committed. There are the bodies of the murdered people. There are witnesses to the crime. The perpetrators are known: they are soldiers and officers of the Russian army. But nobody prosecutes them.
The lives of people in Chechnya often depend on drunken soldiers, who can do whatever they like and no one will question their actions.
The people of Chechnya have been deprived of all their rights, first of all, their right to life. The killing of defenseless civilians, including the elderly, children, and invalids, is a crime. Rape, torture, illegal detention, malicious humiliation are crimes. Depriving civilians of objects indispensable for their survival is a crime.
And failure to take appropriate and effective action to end these atrocities is also a crime.
I can state with full responsibility that what has happened and what is happening now in Chechnya is genocide of the Chechen people.
Is it really necessary to have millions of victims to call such behavior genocide? Isn’t the death of 100,000 Chechens since 1994 in the two Russian-Chechen wars sufficient reason for effective international action to end the conflict and the agony of the Chechen people.
The destruction of a nation cannot be the internal affair of any state. I want to believe that human rights are more than words on paper. I want to believe that the victims will actually be defended by the United States and other democratic governments when their rights to life and to security of the person have been violated in Chechnya or elsewhere.
I hope that President Bush during his forthcoming visit to Russia will persuade President Putin that both Russia and Chechnya will benefit from negotiation of a prompt and just settlement of their costly conflict.
I urge the United States Congress to do what it can to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of Chechens forced from their homes and living as refugees in Ingushetia and in Chechnya itself will receive sufficient assistance from the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other humanitarian agencies to survive until they can return to their homes, confident that their lives and property will be secure.