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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 16, 2003

16 May 2003
Muslim Women Allowed To Wear Headscarves For Passport Photographs
The appeal chamber of the Russian Supreme Court ruled on 15 May that citizens may have their passport photographs taken with headscarves on if their religious beliefs require so, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Considering the appeal of a group of Tatar Muslim women from Tuben Kama, the court annulled Article 14 of the Russian Interior Ministry's passport regulations adopted in September 1997, which request that the photograph is taken without sunglasses and headwear (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 May 2003). The plaintiffs had previously declared their intention to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if the Russian court rejected their appeal. Vladimir Ryakhovskii, a Moscow-based lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told "Izvestiya" daily in an interview published on 16 May that "we have won a very important victory because from now on not only Muslim women will be able to be photographed the way their religion requires it. Orthodox nuns also may have their passport photographs made wearing headscarves." The federal Interior Ministry's passport and visa bureau told reporters that it will appeal against the court's ruling.

Shaimiev Meets With Czech Ambassador
President Mintimer Shaimiev met the Czech Ambassador to Russia Yaroslav Bashta on 15 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. During the talks, Shaimiev noted that "Tatarstan and the Czech Republic have had a rich cooperation experience," as annual bilateral trade turnover has reached $107.1 million in 2002, exceeding the amounts of previous years. He emphasized that the cooperation potential is not being fully realized and suggested diversifying trade and increasing Czech imports to Tatarstan. Bashta suggested that Czech enterprises could participate in rebuilding the historical center of Kazan for the city's millennium anniversary in 2005 and that Czech banks would issue loans to the Tatar capital. Both sides agreed to amend their cooperation treaty signed in 1998 in light of the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union in 2004. Bashta said that "by this [revised] treaty we would like to open up the European Union for Russian companies and Tatarstan." According to Khafiz Salikhov, the Tatar minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation, who spoke with reporters after the meeting, crude oil exports from Tatarstan currently constitute 80 percent of Tatar-Czech trade.

KamAZ Reports Increasing Sales, Cuts Work Week
The Chally-based KamAZ automotive concern has sold 6,780 heavy trucks, 12,100 small vehicles, and 189 buses so far in 2003, the company's press service reported on 15 May. KamAZ incomes were reported at 6.8 billion rubles ($220 million). These sales figures reportedly exceed the company's projections for this year by 2 percent. Nevertheless, Kama-Press agency reported on 15 May that, until October 2003, KamAZ plans to maintain a four-day work week instead of the normal five-day week. The move, which was proposed by the company's management, has not yet been approved by the trade unions.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Official Visits Croatia, Austria
Bashkir Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Boris Kolbin visited on 6-10 May Croatia and Austria, Bashinform reported on 15 May. Kolbin told the news agency that he met with Croatian Economy Minister Lyubo Yurchich, who expressed interest in the establishment of joint ventures in the machine-building sector, cooperation in food and dairy industries, and deliveries of fuel from Bashkortostan. The sides signed a cooperation protocol. Visiting Austria, Kolbin met with Austrian businessmen to discuss deliveries to Bashkortostan of equipment for the energy and oil sectors. Kolbin also met with United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) officials for consultations on amendments to the agreement on the establishment of a Trust Fund, which facilitates trade and market access for developing countries, and UNIDO's integrated program on Bashkortostan, due to be signed in the near future.

Analyst Speculates On Jihad Case
In an article, "Holy Russian Jihad," published in "The Moscow Times" on 15 May, Nikolai Petrov, head of the Center for Political and Geographical Research, speculates on what is behind one of Russia's leading Muslim organizations' declaration of jihad against the United States and its partners in the war against Iraq. The declaration of jihad was made by Supreme Mufti Telget Tajetdin, head of the Central Muslim Religious Board (TsDUM), one of Russia's two main national Muslim organizations (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4, 7, 8, and 10 April 2003). The U.S. Embassy in Moscow immediately denounced the declaration, and sharp criticism followed from the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Justice Ministry, the rival Council of Russian Muftis headed by Rawil Gainetdin, various muftiyats (higher Islamic administrations), and the leadership of Tatarstan. TsDUM explained that by "jihad" Tadzhuddin had in mind an exclusively spiritual confrontation.

In early April, President Vladimir Putin, first in Tambov and later in Moscow, began his shift to a pro-U.S. stance, speaking of the need to further develop Russian-U.S. cooperation, despite difficulties in relations. That the declaration of jihad was made in Ufa at a Unified Russia rally was also of no coincidence, the author writes. Both Gainetdin and Tajetdin, rivals for the leadership of Russia's 20 million Muslims, enjoy the support of the Kremlin.

Asking who benefits from all of this, Petrov continues that for Putin, it is a chance to make sure that the United States understands the difficulties he faces as the head of a country with a huge Muslim population. And with elections around the corner, the declaration, according to the author, was calculated in order to garner support from radical Muslims in Tajetdin's organization, as well as from pragmatic Muslims who side with Gainetdin.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova