The Dangers Of Wearing A Headscarf

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One week ago in the center of Makhachkala, assailants gunned down Colonel Mogamed-Arip Aliyev, head of the local branch of the Interior Ministry in the city of Buinaksk. There had been several previous attempts on his life. Once, his attackers placed a bucket filled with explosives in Aliyev's home, but rain later dampened the detonator, foiling their plans. Aliyev's children found the bucket with explosives while playing the next day.

Before his death, Aliyev eliminated three of the four groups that wanted to kill him; no arrest warrants were needed to execute the operations.

The late Gazimagomed Gimrinsky was both an Islamic extremist and a Federal Security Service agent. In his line of work, Gimrinsky had turned on 120 of his fellow Islamists, handing them over to the FSB. After Aliyev had received information from Gimrinsky about a new group of insurgents, Aliyev took a gun, walked into the dormitory where the rebels were hiding out and killed them all. Aliyev was, in a word, gutsy.

Bammatkhan Sheikhov is thought to be the leader of the Buinaksk Wahhabi community. He lived in Moscow and ran a business here. He wasn't hassled because of his conspicuous beard or because his wife always wore a headscarf. But as soon as Sheikhov returned to his native Buinaksk to make some repairs to his home, he was beaten and his house was searched weekly.

Sheikhov later retreated to the Dagestani woods to live, and six months ago, during a special-forces operation in Gimry village, he turned himself in on a strict guarantee of amnesty. But after he gave himself up, the Interior Ministry forgot all about its amnesty pledge.

A few days after Aliyev's murder, the Dagestani branch of the Interior Ministry announced that three insurgents on its wanted list were killed. According to the ministry's version of the incident, the insurgents returned police fire and then killed themselves.

But it was later revealed that the three who were killed -- Rashid Gazilaliyev, a professor of German at the Dagestan Pedagogical University, his wife and their guest -- were not on the police wanted list, that their neighbors did not hear a shootout, and that Gazilaliyev -- far from having killed himself -- actually died from hand-grenade shrapnel wounds to the back of his head.

A few months ago, police approached an acquaintance of Gazilaliyev's, whose first name was Anvar, and demanded that he let them into his home. Anvar said he would not open his door without a lawyer present. The police then surrounded his home and prepared to enter by force. But Anvar called some friends, and a lieutenant colonel from the Federal Drug Control Service came to his rescue. In the end, Anvar was a given a 15-day suspended sentence. If Gazilaliyev had had Anvar's connections, he might have gotten away with a slap on the wrist too, instead of ending up in the morgue.

Because Gazilaliyev's wife wore a headscarf, her husband was placed on the blacklist of the most-wanted Islamic extremists. In these cases, the police coerce the neighbors to inform on whomever they have on their list. After a suspicious guest arrived at Gazilaliyev's home, the neighbors dutifully notified the police. When they arrived at the scene, Gazilaliyev refused to open the door without a lawyer present. Then, the enraged police stormed his apartment.

The Dagestani Interior Ministry knows perfectly well who murdered Aliyev. It was the infamous Zakaryayev brothers. But hunting down and killing insurgents who are holed up in the woods, like the Zakaryayevs, is a tough and dangerous job. It is much easier to snuff out a German teacher in his apartment.

The result of these kinds of "anti-terrorist" operations is that the number of people who hate the local authorities is growing, but the killers in uniform couldn't care less.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.