Is Journalism Worth Dying For?: Final Dispatches

Is Journalism Worth Dying For?: Final Dispatches by Anna Politkovskaya, Arch Tait Read Free Book Online

Book: Is Journalism Worth Dying For?: Final Dispatches by Anna Politkovskaya, Arch Tait Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anna Politkovskaya, Arch Tait
Tags: History, Europe, Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Voronezhskaya Street; they shot old Yakub, his son Umar, and his nephews, Yusup, Abdrakhman and Suleiman. The only one they didn’t kill was Khasan, an old man who owned the house. He was considered the Elder of the whole of Chernorechiye, but they didn’t just leave him alone. The federals kicked the bodies of the Musayevs together and forced the old man to lie across all five of them and not to move. Then they fired a burst of semi-automatic fire and wounded him. They told him if he got up they would kill him, and then they stood around smoking. Khasan didn’t move and they went off, pleased with themselves. I can’t go on!”
    Rezeda runs outside. Aslanbek crawls over the bunks into a far corner and turns away. Their elder sister, Larisa, takes up the story. She tells of deeds beyond the imagining of anyone but a psychopath. She tells how the trees in their street are now decorated with monstrous bloody blotches where neighbours were put up against them and shot. “You can’t clean it off! That’s why I will never be able to go back there. I just couldn’t live beside those trees where they murdered people I knew and loved. When we left Aldy we saw the men who had survived crying like women; young men’s beards had turned grey. When we were in Ingushetia I saw a television report on the security sweep operation in Aldy. They showed a female sniper they said was Chechen who had supposedly been shooting at the federals from houses in Aldy. They claimed that was why the reprisals were so severe. I couldn’t believe it. It was Tanya Ryzhaya. Everyone in Chernorechiye knows she is an alkie, and, incidentally, Russian. For more than two years her arms have been shaking so violently she couldn’t hold a spoon. We had to feed her, and here they are saying Tanya Ryzhaya was the justification for this whole nightmare in Aldy!”
    A boy of about seven jumps down from the bench. He points a wooden rifle at me and shouts, “Are you a Russian?” The grown-ups shush him, but he yells, “You are a fascist!”
    The war we are waging in the Caucasus dishonors our nation fromtop to bottom. Do you wonder how we can ever atone for this? How long it will take? Remember, Germany spent half a century trying to free itself from the tatters of its national disgrace. Throughout those decades, Russian children were playing games of fighting the Germans, and the grown-ups encouraged them. Are not we the Germans now? How long will it be before Chechen children stop playing games in which the most unpopular boy is the one who has to be the Russian?
    January 31, 2000
    The crusted wounds look painted on. The shaven head of a semiconscious child moves feverishly to and fro on an over-laundered greyish-brown institutional pillow. No groaning or whimpering, only a silence deeply unsettling in someone so seriously injured.
    “She has small shrapnel fragments in her head, but don’t waste your time on that,” the emotionless voice of a middle-aged woman instructs me from a dark corner of the ward. “Much worse is that now she is an orphan. And take a look under the blanket!”
    The shaven skull stubbornly continues trying to dispel its delirium. The little girl is five, her face jaundiced and sallow. Her name is Liana Shamsudinova, and from time to time her eyes flicker half open and stray disapprovingly over the ward without coming to rest on anyone. Her left hip is not covered by the blanket and is worryingly streaked with pus leaking from beneath an enormous dressing.
    “You Russians count her as another resistance fighter,” the monologue from the corner goes on. “The girl needs specialist treatment if she isn’t to be crippled for the rest of her life, but she isn’t going to get that here, and we don’t get sent to clinics anywhere else in Russia, because we are Chechens.”
    My invisible informant had correctly identified the most important issue that day. The setting

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