Waynakh.com is an active and important website focusing on the Chechen issue as well as human rights violations that are growing in the region, all while the second Russian-Chechen war and Russian occupation continue. At the moment, the website provides material in both Turkish and English and has a rich collection of news, decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, videos, and cultural information. We present you with an interview of the board members of Waynakh Online, who have tirelessly continued their work through the years.
Caucasus Forum: Waynakh Online was created in 2000, how did you decide to establish such a website?
Waynakh Online: In 1991, the Chechen people declared their independence and sovereignty using their right of self-determination, but the imperial Russian Federation couldn’t digest it and occupied Chechen territory; then a group of old Chechen diaspora members in Turkey decided to go into action because the Chechen issue started to be used by incompetent people for their own ends and there also weren’t enough Turkish and English sources; it was a necessity to confront the strong disinformation policy of the Russian side, and we had a desire to present Chechen culture. But the most important point is that we wanted to be a part of the rightful struggle and not be silent about the Russian army’s tyranny in our homeland. In 2000, under the conditions of those days, we established “Waynakh Online” through a free hosting service at “Waynakh.cjb.net”. After that, in 2005 we moved to the “Waynakh.com” domain name where we still run our website today.
Caucasus Forum: On the website, we mostly see daily news about human rights and activists. Unfortunately, repression against the defenders is seen very often. Does this mean that you follow daily life in Chechnya regularly? Do you need to spend a lot of time preparing the site?
Waynakh Online: There are some changes in the policy of imperial Russia in the war, which has continued for years. Now, the occupying Russian forces and their local collaborators who carry out Russia’s dirty work, do not bomb residential areas randomly but they carry out mop-up operations as a hidden war, which targets directly and consciously the civilian population in the territory. There are unequivocal human rights violations and war crimes in these practices, and these hidden war lean to the basis of total silence for the independent media or dissidents whatever its price and in this way, the civilian population is frazzled in this empire of fear. The lives of the people who can transmit reality from the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, are endangered, and they are only the human rights defenders and the victims or the relatives of victims who may show courage to express what really happened, even they know what may be happen themselves after these news. Thus, we have created direct contacts with the human rights defenders who live in the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Europe, in this way, we are able to share the actual events quickly. It is very hard, expensive and toilsome to keep alive and up-to-date a website as Waynakh Online, but we don’t complain about it.
Caucasus Forum: As you said, Russia does not want to hear voices regard it with disfavor. Are you affected by these policies?
Waynakh Online: It is no wonder that we are. Russia conducts legal and illegal actions to carry out its imperial aims, not just in their territory or in the occupied lands, but also around the world. As a matter of fact, in 2007, the Foreign Ministry of Russian Federation applied to the Foreign Ministry of Republic of Turkey to shut down Waynakh Online and perform legal punitive forms against its responsibility by using some of their cooperation agreements on terrorism between Turkey and Russia. The Istanbul Attorney General’s Office immediately opened an investigation on this issue. As a part of the investigation, the board members of Waynakh Online were arrested and investigated by the Counter-Terrorism Branch of Istanbul Police Headquarters. In the course of interrogation, the police officers unofficially affirmed that they couldn’t find any illegal material within the site, but they’ve asked to moving site’s hosting to another country and removing some articles which they’ve found very strong. The investigation file was closed due to the inadequacy of evidence, however, the Turkish Intelligent Service “MIT”s pressure is enlarged near the Russia’s undertaking. Thus, first of all, we changed our hosting service company from Turkey to Finland, and then to United States, in this way, we prevented the closure attempts against Waynakh Online. In these days, pro-Russian Chechen regime’s representatives tried to buy our domain name with their generous proposals, and when they got negative answer, they’ve also conveyed their “suggestions” in their own way. As you’ll suppose, Russia’s press and DDoS attacks against the site don’t stop, therefore the hosting companies have started to demand exorbitant prices for their services. Moreover, the so-called Grozny mayor of pro-Russian regime, Muslim Khuchiyev threatened us openly at an event in 2009 in Istanbul. Anyway, not only Russian and Turkish authorities, but also some people who use the Chechen issue for their own benefits, threatened us directly at various times.
Caucasus Forum: It’s interesting that you get pressure from Turkey. In addition to those attacks on the site, have you faced any personal threats?
Waynakh Online: We also have difficulties in understanding Turkey’s attitude because they prefer to close their eyes to some radical elements, but they are acting against a group, in us, that stays on legitimate grounds and fights for human rights. We describe MIT’s attitude mostly as a psychological attack even there is no guarantee on their potential future behavior. However, other threats have been directed at our board members.
Caucasus Forum: How is the situation now? There is an appeal on your webpage titled “Support Your Site”, does it draw attention? Are you hosted by American companies?
Waynakh Online: Our appeal draws attention, not materially but it has motivated us in the moral sense. We’ve received a lot of messages of support. Around a year ago, we rented our own server from a well known American company and we continue our publications via this server. When we moved to our own server, our field of action expanded. In this way, we took over the World Chechnya Day Project (http://www.worldchechnyaday.org) and at the moment we are trying to develop it. Aside from this, we also provide free of charge hosting services for some other projects including Maskhadov.com and ChechenTragedy.com.
Caucasus Forum: Kadyrov is putting on a play for the Chechen diaspora in Turkey by using “journalists” and other people who are trying to show that life in Chechnya has been normalized. Do you think that the old Chechen diaspora in Turkey is affected by these attempts?
Waynakh Online: The target of the pro-Russian regime, or rather imperial Russia is Turkish public opinion. For this reason, there are some people who call themselves “journalists” or “intellectuals”, and are writing and broadcasting to create an image of Chechnya as a bed of roses. It’s undeniable that there are some positive developments in the living conditions in the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria compared to the first days of war, but these publications only transmit what they have permission from the pro-Russian regime to transmit and intend to make people suspicious about the Chechen issue. However, none of these names have ever met with human rights organizations in Chechnya, nor with the victims or the relatives of victims. Simply, they have no idea about real life in the Russian occupied Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and they just talk pretentiously about the decorations there. Due to this, their publications cannot go beyond being poor propaganda. The attitude of the old Chechen diaspora in Turkey has not changed for years, people would like to see an end to the war, but they are clearly against the occupying regime and their governors. It’s normal that some people in Turkey may see themselves near the pro-Russian regime in our occupied homeland or even give their support to this regime but we don’t see a reason to worry about this issue.
Caucasus Forum: You will continue your work through your website Waynakh Online. Would you like to say something to your readers or people who are willing to support you?
Waynakh Online: Waynakh Online advocates the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria idea, but it does not represent the viewpoint of any structures or people; it is an independent formation. This website is our website, everybody’s site, as long as the support and interest towards the site continues, Waynakh Online will be here. For this reason, advocate your website, share with us the information and documents that you have. Share the materials at Waynakh Online specifying the sources and help us to expand our influence by promoting Waynakh Online in your close circles. Join the movement and be a part of the resistance!