Malika Umazheva

Malika Umazheva

Malika Umazheva (1937–2002), a former school teacher, was the former head of the pro-Moscow administration of the Chechen village Alkhan-Kala. Umazheva was an outspoken and courageous critic of unlawful zachistka ("cleansing") raids that Russian forces conducted in her village and had had several confrontations with a high-ranking Russian federal officers during the months prior to her death.[1][2][3] She also worked closely with the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.[4]

According to Memorial investigators, Umazheva was killed by a group of Russian special forces soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms and armed with VSS Vintorez silenced sniper rifles, who arrived at the village in an armoured vehicle and a military truck on the night of November 29-30, 2002. The soldiers broke into her home, where she lived with her son and two adopted daughters, and took her outside. Umazheva's body was discovered by the villagers soon after.

On December 4, 2002, a correspondent for Radio Liberty reported:

"More than 4,000 residents of the Chechen Republic gathered today for the funeral of Malika Umazheva in the settlement of Alkhan-Kala, and almost all of them signed an appeal to the [pro-Moscow] leadership and procuracy of the republic asking that they locate and punish those guilty of murdering a courageous Chechen woman who, despite all the threats from the Russian special services, the MVD, and the soldiers of the Combined Group of Forces in Chechnya, always stood in defense of the rights of the populace of Alkhan-Kala, documenting all illegal actions committed by the soldiers during their many special operations and raids on that population point."

In a tribute to the slain Umazheva, her friend Anna Politkovskaya wrote in Novaya Gazeta on the next day:

"Malika was a true heroine, a unique and marvelous one. She became the head of administration of one of the most complex Chechen villages—Alkhan-Kala (a 'Baraev' village, the subject of endless 'cleansing operations,' executions and disfigured corpses) after the former head had been murdered. Reason would have told her: 'Sit quietly. Be careful.' But she did the exact opposite—she became the boldest and most committed village head in that murderous zone of military anarchy which today is Chechnya. By herself, unarmed, she went out to meet the [Russian] tanks that were crawling into the village. Alone, she shouted to the generals who had deceived her and, on the sly, were murdering the residents of the village: 'You scoundrels!' She relentlessly fought for a better fate for Alkhan-Kala. No one else permitted himself to do that in present-day Chechnya. Not a single male. She, a humble village head who had been elected by a popular assembly earned the wild hatred of the chief of our General Staff, the much-decorated General Kvashnin. He hated her so much that he invented the vilest stories about her, using his access to the television cameras to spread them. And she? She continued along her chosen path and, in response to Kvashnin's lies, she sued him in court, knowing perfectly well that almost everyone is afraid of him.... But Kvashnin does not forgive those who do not fear him."

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