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Refugee Camp (2:54) Excerpt from film "Greetings From Grozny" July 2002
About half a million Chechens currently live in refugee camps. While many young Chechens are recruited into the war efforts, 16-year-old Rajap attempts to further his education from his home in a tent city.

Country: Chechnya
Related Lesson Plan:
  • Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

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    Guiding Questions
    1. How does Zarina characterize the residents of the refugee camp?

    2. Can you think of other circumstances when refugee camps have been one of the results of ethnic conflict?

    3. How might Rajap represent 'hope amidst hopelessness'?

    4. React: "The war in Chechnya is the killer of dreams."

    Background Essay
    About half a million Chechens live in refugee camps. While many young Chechens are recruited into the war efforts, 16-year-old Rajap attempts to further his education from his home in a tent city. Russia has been threatening to forcefully send the refugees back to their homes, but has yet to act on this threat.

    Small but fiercely independent, the republic of Chechnya has been involved for years in a war for self-determination against Russia. The ruined cityscape of Grozny and the scarred roads and fields of the countryside are evidence of a conflict that has been marked both by brutal occupation and terrorist resistance.

    In 1991, General Jokhar Dudayev, leader of the separatist party, was elected as president of Chechnya and promptly declared Chechnya's independence from the Soviet Union. This declaration of independence was not accepted by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who at the time was trying to build a new regime. After a failed attack by the Russian counter-intelligence, Yeltsin directed Russian troops to invade Chechnya in December of 1994. Russian forces seized Dudayev's presidential palace. Despite this and other Russian strategic gains, the rebel attacks continued. Russia momentarily appeared to gain an upper hand in April 1996, when Russian forces killed the Chechen president in a missile attack.

    A peace agreement was signed in August of 1996 that postponed consideration of Chechnya's political status until 2001 and recognized de facto independence. Unfortunately, internal conflicts between rival Chechen warlords continued, despite the introduction of varied means of control, including Islamic Sharia courts. In 1999 Russian mounted a second, extended, military intervention in the area in an attempt to reclaim Grozny and weed out rebel fighters. Russian forces instituted a campaign of zachistki - "clean-up operations" - among the civilian population, resulting in the disappearance or death of hundreds of Chechen civilians. Many of them fled the area. Russian attempts to convince Chechen refugees that they can safely return to their homeland are ongoing, but, set against a backdrop of ruined cities, mined fields and an ever-changing security situation, have not met with success.

    The Wide Angle film GREETINGS FROM GROZNY is a journey that leads the viewer behind the lines on both sides of the Russian-Chechen conflict. Film crews accompany Russian troops on "cleansing missions" through residential districts of Grozny, and spend 24 tense hours at a Russian checkpoint. They also go undercover in the border regions where there is evidence that radical Islam increasingly motivates Chechen fighters, and provide glimpses into the webs of special interest woven around this horrific conflict by the United States, the Wahabist Muslims and the Georgians.

    Transcript
    RAJAP, CHECHEN REFUGEE:
    This is where we eat and wash -- it's all in one place.

    Here is the bedroom. My mother and sister sleep in this bed and this

    NARRATOR:
    Like many other of the refugees, 16 year-old Rajap would rather try to educate himself than risk going back to school in Chechnya.

    RAJAP:
    This is my English dictionary, it's a very good book -- HAPPY ENGLISH its name is.

    This is written by Stevenson -- KIDNAPPED. Historical book. I also have some books written by Dumas and Arthur Connan Doyle...

    NARRATOR:
    For months now, the Russians have been threatening to send the refugees back to their homes -- and the checkpoints and cleansing operations of Chechnya. By force if necessary.

    ZARINA:
    This war is just a political game and we are the pawns. But these kids don't understand that. If they did, they wouldn't be rushing off to die.

    MIKHAIL:
    This war isn't ending. They get two or three recruits every month. We don't exterminate children like the Germans did, to eliminate them totally. So in a couple of years, they'll have plenty more of these 20 year-old fighters.

    RAJAP:
    I want to be a lawyer, and... Can I speak Russian?

    I want to be a lawyer -- and show that the truth will prevail.

    That you can't violate human rights.

    I'd like to become an attorney and defend human rights.

    Related Links
    Greetings From Grozny on PBS.org
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/shows/chechnya/

    BBC News: The Chechen Conflict
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/in_depth/europe/2000/
    chechnya/default.stm


    Human Rights Watch: Chechnya
    http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/

    Prague Watchdog: Crisis in Chechnya
    http://www.watchdog.cz/

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