A group of the victims' relatives delivered a symbolic public rebuke to the Russian government today, releasing a petition signed by more than 400 people requesting political asylum "in any country where human rights are respected".
The petition states: "We, the parents and relatives ... have lost all hope for a just investigation of the reasons and the guilty parties in our tragedy, and we do not wish to live anymore in this country, where a human life means nothing." [...]
And from the Russian state-funded Ria Novosti news agency:
The Mothers of Beslan committee, a group of women who lost their children in the hostage-taking tragedy last September, has denied any role in an appeal for political asylum that was disseminated this morning in the name of the committee, the chairman told a news conference.
"It is an opinion expressed by several members of the committee rather than a collective decision," Zhulieta Basiyeva said.
"We have seen the statement and considered it, but we never intended to distribute it," she added.
The statement, which was distributed among foreign journalists during mourning ceremonies in Beslan, contained an appeal for political asylum "in any country where human rights are upheld." The statement said 500 signatures had been gathered in support of it, but nobody has actually seen them.
The full text of the petition, published in Gazeta.ru (in Russian), is rough, not too coherent at times, and reads like screaming:
We've been waiting patiently for almost a year to be told the truth about the cruel killing of our relatives, and for those responsible for it to be held accountable. But time and the officials' behavior have shown us that we'll never be told the absurd and horrible truth. Many of us were held hostage inside the school and we witnessed the extermination of the people. We were present at the trial of the terrorist [Nurpasha] Kulaev, and the state prosecution has been trying to put all the blame on the terrorists only. Yes, a terrorist act took place, the rebels shot 21 men inside the school. They were not killing women and children. And who was it then that shot the rest, more than 300 people, mainly women and children? Whole families were being killed. Why?!
They do not want to tell the obvious truth to us. But we know it now. We know who did it, we know who used our children and relatives in their own dirty politics. We know who chose not to negotiate with terrorists and sacrificed the lives of our relatives for the sake of their ugly political image. Yes, on September 1-3, 2004, the federal authorities have achieved a cynical and bloody victory over a bunch of terrorists, the victory that was both a military and an informational one. After this, terrorists would think twice before taking children hostage, because they've been shown that nothing can stop the federal authorities. But why were they liberating us so cruelly?
It is obvious that for the federal authorities of Russia we're nothing but "persons of Caucasian ethnicity." The hostages were treated like cattle at a slaughterhouse. [...] The federal authorities justify their actions by the lofty ideals of Russia's integrity. And what are we supposed to do? What are our children guilty of? Such a mass slaughter of hostages may be repeated anywhere anytime.
We think that the primary reason for the spread of terror in Russia is the cruel war against our own people in Chechnya. Corruption and bribery have turned into a cancer on the body of the Russian state structures. This tumor has affected the whole society and serves as rich soil for crime and terrorism.
We, mothers, fathers, relatives and close ones of the hostages who were cruelly tortured by the terrorists, have been betrayed by our politicians, officials, law enforcement, and our "president," we are desperate and we've lost all hope to hear the truth about the main culprits guilty of extermination of our relatives; we are asking you to accept us in your country where we would be law-abiding citizens, respecting your laws.
Finally, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to you and your peoples for sharing our pain during the September 2004 tragedy. We hope that this time you will treat our appeal with sympathy and understanding. We will be grateful for your response.
Desperate and sincere, naive - that's what I think of it, even though I've read some people's opinions that it's a well-prepared move by Garry Kasparov and other opposition activists, blah-blah-blah.
I do hope there'll be a country that will have the guts to grant these people and their children asylum.
(Could Ukraine be this country? Would they agree to move there? Somehow, I doubt it...)