Acting as a Witness to a Forgotten War

Nivat, Anne
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p86
This article provides a personal account of the war in Chechnya in Russia. The war in Chechnya, the second one in a decade, has been raging ever since Moscow sent its troops to the breakaway province in the fall of 1999. Chechnya is a particularly difficult war to cover because of all of the minefields. Despite the fiasco that is this war, the Kremlin can claim one victory: It has convinced the outside world that this conflict is a part of the global war on terrorism. The Kremlin tolerates very few independent-minded Russian and foreign reporters who publish the truth about what's going on in Chechnya. I've tried to report on this war in a way that would connect my newspaper's readers to it--by passing along the personal stories told to me in the setting and context I found them. In the five years I've covered this war, I have visited hell. I had to meet with as many different kinds of people as possible. I wanted to share the daily horrors with the locals and expose how the unimaginable can become the norm. I also have written how most Chechens, while they are Muslim, want nothing to do with the Wahhabis who have infiltrated their villages and brought with them the wrath of the world. As journalists--serving as witness to this brutality--we pay an emotional price for the work we do. Even if nobody for whom I write this story cares, it is difficult for me to forget Chechnya.


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