Thursday, October 4, 2012

Musings about the last 5 years of Circassian activism

Five years ago, on October 4, 2007, a group of Adyghes and supporters stood outside Russian Consulates in Istanbul and New York City as well as the United Nations to protest the newly selected site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the "450 Year Lie" 

The following is a write-up from that small demonstration: 

October 4th, 2007

450 years ago, Czarist Russia and the Kabarday Circassians signed a treaty for peace between the two nations. This treaty was broken when Russia committed war and genocide against Circassians. Over half of the population, 1.5 million Circassians were raped, kidnapped, beaten, and murdered. Over 750,000 more perished during the Exile of 1864. 

Russia celebrated this 450 year old "treaty" in the Caucasus.

The Winter Olympics in 2014 will be held in Sochi. Sochi, is the land of Circassians and also the site of when the Circassians met their tragical doom. As Circassia's last capital, it was the point of exile for one million Circassians. 

This demonstration was to let the world know that Circassians are still alive. We shed light on the lies and oppose both immoral celebrations. 

So what are our successes since this particular action? Very basically...  
  • The words "Circassia", "genocide", "activism" were re-introduced and became regular words in our vocabulary. 
  • Many conferences in Europe, the Caucasus, and the United States were dedicated to our history, our present situation and how we will build the future. Engaging experts and discussing our issues on an international scale marks a big shift from the dinner table talks and khasa social gatherings. 
  • Every year, thousands of Adyghes and supporters around the world join in demonstrations that demand a free Circassia, recognition of the Genocide, stopping the Sochi Olympics on the site of Genocide, demand language rights in host nations as well as the right to return to our homeland. 
  • The Circassian Genocide was recognized in 2010 for the first time by Georgia, a UN member state. What was once called "a hidden genocide" is becoming more prominent topic of discussion.
  • A new understanding of the Circassian Genocide was understood thanks to the documents collected from the Georgia State Archives. 
  • Alliances with international groups and other nations are pushing the discussion of Circassia to an even wider public
  • Thanks to efforts of activists, journalists, and scholars, many articles, books, journals, were published and thousands of people learned of what happened to Circassia. 
  • Movies, documentaries, music, art and graphics have permeated the consciousness of Adyghes and awakened that a nation with a very rich and old culture can tell its story in a variety of ways. Besides dance, we are expressing ourselves in many more mediums.  
  • ... and more... 
So, what will the next five years bring? The issues we deal with today affect our compatriot's lives and the integrity of our nation. Questions that we face include:
  1. What can be done to help our Circassian compatriots in Syria and those who returned to our homeland? How can we help them to build a sustainable living in our homeland? How can we protect our compatriots so that a humanitarian crisis does not befall our nation in other areas where Circassians reside? How can we help them when one does?
  2. WIth less then two years remain till the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, how can we utilize our tools and limited resources to take advantage of the situation to tell our story to the world when it focuses its attention in Sochi, 2014? How can we continue to address the world when the Olympics pass?
  3. How can Circassians in Diaspora support our compatriots in the homeland, whose property, and human rights are under threat? 
  4. How can Circassians in Circassia, help those in Diaspora rebuild a connection to the homeland? 
  5. What institutions and organizations can we establish and create to address the social and political issues of repatriation, assimilation and lobby internationally in our modern and increasingly globalized world? 
  6. Which institutions and organization exist now that can address these very issues?
  7. How can we train the young generation to become lawyers, political scientists, journalists to spread awareness and advocate for Circassia?
  8. The internet along with its social media platforms is an extraordinary tool that aided in the rise of an 'iCircassia'. How can our virtual nation become a real one on a map?
  9. How can an increasingly assimilating nation revive and sustain a  language that was spoken for thousands of years?
  10. What resources - financial and manpower- and how much of it, can we dedicate to fulfill the needs our nation?
Without a doubt, these are challenging times for our nation. The solutions are not perfect and not easy. A success today is met with a roadblock tomorrow and as with any society, not everyone agrees on a course of action. However, the the amount and scope of our accomplishments from the last 5 years (and the oppostional reactions that it generated) is one that should be celebrated. 

As a twenty-something that was (and will continue to be, so long as I'm capable) involved at the start of this movement 5 years ago (which really is nothing new, but a re-emergence of actions from decades ago)... I have hope that our nation is tenacious and able to meet these challenges. Our history proves that we have the talent. If the last 5 years is proof, we also have the courage to follow the footsteps of our warriors and build on the work of our freedom fighters. It truly is extraordinary that a nation is using its voice after nearly 150 years of forced silence, oppresive regimes, countless upheavals when we could have choked. It's just proof that our nation is not destined to die out at the hands of a nation with 100x more resources than ours, tries and hopes would happen... (Russia, I know you're reading this. I meant you.)

Action is what is restoring hope and making our future a little less bleak. It does not matter if you are 5, 15, 50 or 100, we all have a responsiblity to do something to protect our history and uphold our fundamental values. Every action counts. US President John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Where would you like to see our nation in five, ten or twenty years? How would you help to get it there? We are one people, one nation. Our destiny is determined by what actions (or inactions) we take. It will be hard, but I'm hopeful. I'm looking forward to the next five years.

So with all my love, and all my faith... Long live Circassia. Адыгэ пco. 

Protest outside Russian Consulate on October 4, 2007 in Taksim Square, Istanbul Turkey.  More photos from October 4, 2007, Istanbul
Protest outside United Nations on October 4, 2007 in New York City, USA. More photos from October 4, 2007, New York City 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Circassians Protest at City Mall in Damascus, Syria

This post is an update to one of my (re)tweets earlier today, with the following message. Thanks to the twitter user  for the tip.

Via @_Syria_  - Thanks for the tip!

More information; thanks to Hamood Nour and others on Facebook, for being the messengers.

A play of protest against the murderous Syrian regime was given in a Damascus city center mall. It featured 4 Circassians--Sasha Ayoub, Salina Abaza, Leen Shaker, and Mohamed Abdallah. They were arrested on site. There is news the girls have been released from jail but no information has come about the status of Mohamed Abdallah.

We hope and pray for the best for Mohamed Abdallah. May all that still suffer at the hands of the Syrian regime will find safety and freedom very soon.

(4/12/12 - 12:50PM EST) UPDATE: Just received word that Mohamed Abdallah was released as well.

Click "more" for pics and videos of this event.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Al Jazeera- "Putin's challenge: The Circassians and the Winter Olympics"

Great in-depth opinion piece by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed and Frankie Martin, research fellow at the Ibn Khaldoun Chair at American University, published yesterday on Al-Jazeera.

Looking forward to reading the upcoming book!

Putin's challenge: The Circassians and the Winter Olympics 

How Putin treats the Circassians and the issue of Sochi will indicate which direction Russia will take 
"How Putin treats the Circassians and the issue of Sochi will indicate which direction Russia will take. By examining and helping to rectify the errors and tragedies of history, Russia can decide its status as a major 21st century world power and at the same time, help avert the extinction of an entire people. Putin must decide if he is to be Putin the Terrible or Putin the Enlightened."