October 27, 2009
The tiny Russian republic of Ingushetia has become one of the most dangerous places in the world. Endemic corruption combined with a battle between Islamic extremists and unaccountable Moscow-backed security forces has plunged the area into bloody violence. Reporter Antony Butts and director Dom Rotheroe went to find out what lay behind the conflict and to investigate claims of extrajudicial killings, torture and suppression of political dissent.
It is hard for foreign journalists to get into the area or to operate independently. The team was under surveillance by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and local security forces – forcing them to film covertly on occasion. Local human rights activists have been illegally detained and in some cases murdered and it was difficult to find interviewees prepared to talk openly. A few weeks after they left, Maksharip Aushev, a civil opposition leader they had filmed, was murdered by unknown gunmen. During filming, local fixers were warned by the security police not to cooperate with them and eventually Antony and Dom were warned to leave the country.
The various civil conflicts raging across the Russian Federation’s southern Muslim republics are putting an intolerable burden on the civilian populations caught in the middle. The war in Ingushetia is proving dirtier than most yet and, because of the difficulty of reporting, it has largely stayed off the world’s radar. This film for Al Jazeera’s People & Power lifted the lid on a catalogue of seemingly indiscriminate murder, human rights abuse, political and religious persecution, poverty, corruption and neglect.