sunnuntai 10. toukokuuta 2009

The true story of Zubajr Zubajraev

The story you are going to read is a torture case. A torture case that is developing right now, at the time when you are reading this article.

It can either conclude in  ”Rescue of Common Rian”- kind of story with its happy end or in ”Dante's Circles” with no escape from being held in the depth of the Hell.

The name of the person is Zubajr Zubajraev. He is a thirty-year-old Chechen who is now serving his five-year sentence in a colony of Volgograd. 

Zubajr lived in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt together with his mother and five sisters. He had to become the breadwinner for the family after their father's death in a car crash. He was just fourteen when it happened. 

He didn't take part in either of the Chechen war campaigns. He saw his life responsibility in maintaining the well-being of the family. 


However, the Zubajraev have never been indifferent towards the sufferings that the wars have inflicted upon people. They were seen among participants of anti-war rallies. Their house was a temporary refuge for those residents of Grozny who were fleeing shellings and mop-ups.

In that troubled time it was enough to arouse suspicions of secret services. Zubajr was warned to have been blacklisted. 

In 2004 Zubajr's relatives persuaded him to leave Russia together with his wife Madina. The couple found refuge in Austria where their first son was born. But in 2006 Zubajr's elderly mother was diagnozed with cancer. 

Zubajr and Madina didn't think twice. The mother needed Zubajr's help and the family decided to return to Chechnya. 

They tried to believe the assertions that the situation in Chechnya had stabilized. They also hoped that Zubajr's had been forgotten during the two years of their life outside Russia. 


The first months passed quietly. Zubajr spent most of his time accompanying his mother to the hospital in Rostov-on-Don and back. She got better. 

But on 23 February 2007 Zubajr went missing. 

He entered the first circle of the Inferno. His wife and four sisters searched for him everywhere. Only in three months they found Zubajr under investigation carried out by Groznenskiy district police station. He had been under their custody since the time of the disappearance. 


Zubajr's story is one tragic detail of the Chechen reality of the XXI century.  The whole nation was deported on Stalin's order in 1944 to face the fate of being often betrayed by their neighbours in just sixty years after the deportation. Now they are often picked out one by one on reports by informers of Kadyrov and his bosses with the FSB to serve fabricated charges and unfair judgements.

To extort confession from Zubajr, the investigators applied the most efficient method againt him which is torture. Malika, Zubajr's sister, told Elena Maglevannaja, a Russian journalist who did a lot to publicize Zubajr's story, ”They were tearing his nails off. They subjected him to electrocution. They wanted to force him testify against some other people”. Zubajr managed not to trap new victims. In addition to that, his tormentors threatened that his relatives would share his fate. His wife, who was pregnant with their second child, was taken to hospital. To stop the torture, Zubajr gave self-confession. 

In June 2007 Zubajr told the sisters that he had had to sign the testimony on himself. The Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic ruled Zubajr guilty of attempting at the life of a law agent and illagel arms possession. They sentenced him to five years in high security prison.


Zubajr was moved to serve the sentence to Volgograd Region. Colony #25 situated in Frolovo village became Zubajr's second circle of torment. 

Regular beatings and torture there didn't pursue any particular purpose. Zubajr was chosen to be just a target. Prison guards burst into his cell and severely beat him at the head with plastic bottles full of water. Zubair was subjected to electroshocks. He was injected with unknown substances. He was nailed to the floor and he was forced to stand in the snow with bare feet. 

Other inmates sent a message to his sisters via one of their relatives. An unknown person called them one day and told, ”If you don't want to have a corpse delivered to you, come and take him out”. 

Following numerous complaints on Zubajr's situation, he was moved to the prison hospital. It happened only in February 2008 after he had managed to submit the complaint on the colony administration and a criminal case against the chief of the colony was instituted.

However, the hospital didn't happen to be his salvation. Zubajr was admitted to his third level of the Inferno. 

Instead of receiving adequate medical treatment, Zubajr was again subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. In his words, there were the chief of the cololny and his deputies among his usual tormentors. This time there was a reason behind the torture. They needed his testimony that all his previous statements had been lies. 

Zubajr's sisters, Fatima and Malika, were allowed to have a meeting with Zubajr on a condition that they would persuade him to revoke his statement. Soon after the meeting they told Zoja Svetova, a journalist with the Novye Izvestia newspaper, ”Zubajr coulod hardly walk. When asked why my brother was in a such a terrible state, the staff of the colony responded that he had two epilepsy fits during which he allgedly fell down and hit his head. At that, my brother didn't  suffer any diseases like that before his imprisonment”.


In November 2008, Imran Ejiev, my former colleague on the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society now residing in Germany, visited Zubajr in prison. he was accompanied by Alikhan Soltakhanov, a surgeon from Germany.  They managed to take photoes of the wounds on the head, body and feet of Zubajr which didn't heal, including his bandage soaked with pus. Imran Ejiev stated to Zoja Svetova, ”The bandage was not change for weeks. At that, Vladislav Nikishin told me that Zubajr was provided with the best possible conditions but he inflicted damage on himself by hitting his head at the wall and putting salt into his wounds”.

Alikhan Soltakhanov described Zubajr Zubajraev's condition to a journalist with the Chechen Committee of National Salvation NGO which is based in Nazran (Ingushetia), ”Zubajr was absolutely exausted, both physically and morally. The left half of the face was all a huge bruise. The face was distorted. There were numerous small wounds on his arms. They looked as if small bits of flesh were taken off with. They were wounds through his both feet, o.5 sm in diameter. He explained that he had been nailed to the floor. Due to them, Zubajr could walk only with a stick. His guards threatened that they would take the stick from him as ”he didn't need any”. Zubajr was suffering from severe headaches and black-outs which were the symptom of severe head concussion”.


On 11 February 2009, a press-conference was held in Moscow on Zubajr's situation. Imran Ejiev showed pictures of signs of torture as undeniable proof of the methods applied against him. Amnesty International issued their address to the Prosecutor General and the chief of the Federal Inspection to Monitor Punishments. Outspoken human rights defenders Svetlana Gannushkina and Lev Ponomarjov made their statements in support of Zubajr. His sister Malika didn't hesitate to bring her evidence. 

The two sisters, Malika and Fatima, took the train back to Chechnya. In Rostov-on -Don a man joined them in their compartment. His ”revelations” scared the young women nearly to death. He gave them a detailed account of how he ”had twisted off heads of other talkative relatives of missing people”. When the man told them what places and at what addresses they had visited in Moscow, it became clear that they were under surveillance througout the visit. They managed to call human rights defenders in Moscow and Volgograd. In Grozny representatives of the Memorial picked them up. Soon they were moved outside Chechnya, thanks to support provided by one of international human rights organizations. 

Some other activists who are trying to draw attention to Zubajr's situation have been harassed in different ways. On March 20, 2009, the administration of colony filed a suit against Elena Maglevannaja, a journalist from Volgograd, thanks to him Zubajr's story became public. They are accusing her of ”spoiling their professional image”. The next court session has been fixed for May 12. All the appeals of Elena and her lawyers to let Zubajr testify in court have been denied. The colony administration hopes to get 500 000 rubles as compensation. They also demand that Elena publish a new article starting, ”The staff of penitentiary institutions serve the interest of the state. This service takes them courage, bravery, self-sacrifice and a lot of effort...” 


Meanwhile, these courageous servants of the state keep beating Zubajr forcing him to revoke his statements. On March 26, Zubajr's lawyer Musa Khadisov had to give his testimony in court on numerous signs of torture that he had seen the day before. In a month, on April 23, 2009, Khadisov saw new signs of beating on Zubajr's body, including bruises in thye area of the chest, shoulders and low part of the back. In his complaint to the superiors of Zubajr's guards, the lawyer stated that he had immediately demanded that a doctor and a chief of the prison hospital be called. It was refused. 

The reason why the doctors of this prison hospital have forgortten Hyppocratus's oath becomes clear if you read an open Internet blog run by the chief surgeon of this particular prison. The majority of posts is on Chechens and their criminal inner self... Elena Maglevannaja told on phone that he didn't hesitate to carry out  some kind of discussion with her in the Internet. It is rather threats than  dispute, ”It is up to us to decide who to treat and how. I am now afraid of any kind of inspection. You'd better think twice. It is likely that you will be checked somewhere and sooner that I will”.

During our last conversation with Elena, she told, ”In autumn 2008 a journalist with the Novaja Gazeta, Vera Chelischeva, promised to cover Zubajr's story. Then I didn't hear from her for long. Last week I called the newspaper asking to get me through to the chief editor. I told him everything once again. He responded, ”Chelischeva no longer works with the Novaja Gazeta. And the newspaper isn't covering such stories any longer. The investigation department deals only with coprruption. Journalists can't help here. You'd better turn to human rights defenders”. Lena remarked hat she had already tried and put the receiver down. 

I didn't know how to answer her simple question, ”Why those who are capable to help don't do what they can?” 

Oksana Chelysheva



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