Team 29: 🔥This train is on fire

posted 22 Oct 2019, 12:05 by Translation Service   [ updated 25 Oct 2019, 02:27 ]

Hi! It’s Natasha Korchenkova here

Today, I’d like to tell you about Isabella Evloeva from Ingushetia. We met in the summer and, right from the start, I was captivated by her energy, strength and beauty. Bella’s life has been like that of most women from the North Caucasus republics: she got married at 17, raised four children and, up to the age of 32, hadn’t worked a single day. But in autumn 2018, the head of the republic, Yunus-bek Evkurov, made a backroom deal with the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, on a new border between the regions, and she couldn’t stay on the sidelines. She travelled to every meeting, made live appearances on social media, and even launched her own media outlet about the protests, ‘Fortanga’– that’s the name of the little river between Ingushetia and Chechnya. When they started arresting Ingush activists en masse in the spring and charging them with committing ‘violence against the authorities’ (they later used the same line to stitch people up in the Moscow Case prosecutions), Isabella decided not to go back to Russia after the European work placement she was on and ended up settling down in Vilnius.

She faced endless opposition: she was attacked by trolls, there were attempts to send her relatives warnings, and the local government offered her a decent job if she would end her protests. But she would stop at nothing. At one rally, people yelled at her, “Woman, why are you getting yourself involved in something you shouldn’t be?” “I’m not just a woman”, Isabella replied, “I’m a journalist.” Bystanders would also hassle her husband, Abdul-Khamid, all the time, demanding that he make his wife stay at home. But he didn’t stop her from doing anything. On the contrary, he supported her, standing by her side at rallies and letting her get on with her work. Well, this was just ludicrous for a family from the Caucasus! Once I’d met Abdul-Khamid as well, I was completely won over by this couple.

We agreed that as soon as their children were able to leave Russia and join them (passports for foreign travel had been ready for a long time but, under various pretexts, had not been issued), it would be possible to go public with their story. A fortnight ago, I finally got a message from Bella: “The kids have arrived, and I’m ready now”.

Several days ago, we published an interview with her. It was about how things were going with the protest in Ingushetia, what was changing right now in the republic, and what it took to confront injustice and lawlessness.

During the conversation, Bella repeated several times how much she missed home and how she hoped to return. And I thought about how there must be something wrong with a government that sees people who love their country more than anything, and would do whatever it takes for their native land, as enemies. All that Bella and the other protestors wanted was for their government to hear them and not make important decisions without any dialogue with its citizens. But this train has been on fire for a long time now, hurtling towards an unknown destination and forcing many of its passengers – even its very bravest – to jump off. Worse still, not everyone makes it, and not every time. As things stand, over 30 prisoners from the ‘Ingush Bolotnoe Affair’ are being held in remand. They include a friend of Isabella’s, Zarifa Sautieva.

Despite everything, Isabella tries to look to the future with optimism: “I think that people are going to come back to life. The meme for the release of Zarifa got people mobilised. The Olympic champion Khasan Khalmurzaev came out in support of her and the politician Leonid Gozman wrote about her the other day. It’s really important for people to talk about our protest. If they forget about it, then they won’t do a thing, for sure.” The Ingush detainees are reportedly far fewer in number than those who were involved in the ‘Moscow Case’, but let’s learn about them, too, and keep them in mind.


Natasha, Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford