Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Actions in Support of Repatriation of Circassians from Syria Intensify, Spread

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 30 – The murder by sniper fire of an 11-year-old Circassian girl in Damascus has touched the hearts of her co-ethnics in the North Caucasus and sparked an intensification and spread of demonstrations demanding that Moscow change course and allow Circassians to return to the homeland from which their ancestors were expelled in 1864.

            Indeed, since the Sochi Olympiad which took place at the site of that tsarist-era expulsion and genocide, no issue has so united Circassians as has the brutal murder of Judy Maf in the war-torn Syrian capital -- or highlighted the extent to which they are at odds with the government in Moscow (

             Evidence of this is that demonstrations in support of the return of the Circassians have now spread from Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, to Maykop, the capital of Adygeya, with organizers saying that they “do not exclude the possibility” of mass actions in front of government buildings (

            Initially, individuals went into the main square with posters and pictures of the murdered girl. Now, they are attracting several dozen participants.  Moreover, many Circassian Facebook users have changed their avatars to pictures of Judy, a way of mobilizing still more people in the Internet age (

                More details are emerging about Judy Maf. “Before the beginning of military actions in Syria, she lived with her family in the [predominantly Circassian] settlement of Marj-al-Sultan.” They her family was forced to move to Daahit al-Assad, a suburb of Damascus, where she was shot and killed.

                Yali Kat, a Circassian blogger from Nalchik, posted online that Judy had purchased a new dress for Kurban-Bayram and had gone home to show it off. But before she could get there, she was killed (

            Kat’s post sparked a large number of comments, Kavkazskaya politika says, ranging “from expressions of sympathy … to anger about the inaction of the authorities concerning the repatriation of Circassians to their historical motherland.”

            The organizer of the Nalchik action was Abubekir Murzakanov, the head of the Adyge Khekuzh-Circassia who used his Facebook page to call for all people of good will in the republic to assemble and demand that officials help evacuate the Circassians from Syria before more tragedies occur.

            “We do not want war,” he wrote. Rather, we want “that all Circassians who now live abroad feel themselves at home in the Caucasus and that every Circassian has the opportunity to return to his historical motherland. An innocent child has died,” and two months ago, two other Circassian compatriots did as well, Abaza Nart Ramzi and his mother.
            Abaza had studied at the Kabardino-Balkaria State University, he continued, and said “this insanity must be ended.”  That is what the demonstrations are about, and they must be heeded because they represent “a cry of the soul … One must not kill children … Even beasts do not act that way with their young.”

            Murzakhanov said that he and his group “maintain ties with the diasporas” and that is why so many people know about Judy’s murder. Her death “lies on the conscience of those who do not permit the Circassians to return to the motherland, on those who consider themselves leaders of the people but do not have any relation to the resolution of its problems.”

            Up to now, he said, “Russia has been deaf to the problem of the Circassians of Syria. We cannot understand this. An individual of any nation can settle here. The only ones who today do not have that right are Circassians.” And they must come together in that homeland in order for the nation to survive and flourish.

            According to participants in the demonstration, more people will take part in future ones as word spreads of Judy’s death.  Lyudmila Kashirokova, one of their number, said that “we hope that the action will be noted. People are not indifferent to the fate of our compatriots in Syria.”

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