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The 400-plus participants at the congress on June 27 in Maykop of the Circassian public movement Adyghe Khase (Circassian Council) expressed their shared concern at ongoing trends that they fear pose a threat. Specifically, they fear that ongoing police reprisals against young Muslims in towns close to the administrative border with Krasnodar Krai could drive some of the victims to join the Islamic underground.

Khazret Chemso, a member of Adyghe Khase's council, described to the congress how groups of between 10-15 police officers force their way into the homes of practicing Muslims early in the morning and "turn everything upside down" in their search for incriminating objects such as weapons or drugs. Alternatively, they intercept young men as they leave the mosque, force them to lie face down on the ground, search them, and then let them go.

Asked to comment on the situation, Adyghe Khase Chairman Arambiy Khapay said that no one should be persecuted for his faith. He said that at present there are no grounds for the development in the republic of "aggressive forms of Islam. We are not Chechnya, or Ingushetia, or Daghestan."

At the same time, he warned that unless such harassment ceases, Adygeya could be the target of an attack by Islamic militants comparable to that on the Kabardino-Balkaria capital, Nalchik, in October 2005. Most of the young fighters who took part in that attack had similarly been subjected to arbitrary harassment and violence by the police.

The congress approved unanimously a proposal to convene a roundtable discussion of police persecution of young Muslims. The republican government, Interior Ministry, prosecutor's office, and the presidential administration will be invited to participate.

A second key issue debated at the June 27 congress was the all-Russian census to take place in October 2010. Khapay said Adyghe Khase's council has already adopted a resolution recommending that Adygeya's Circassians designate their nationality in the census questionnaire both as Circassian, and by the ethnonym Adyg. He had told kavkaz-uzel.ru earlier that the Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia chapters of Adyghe Khase will issue analogous recommendations to the Circassian population of those two republics.

The congress also adopted an appeal to the leaders of Adygeya, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Cherkessia to revive the Parliamentary Assembly that comprised representatives from all three republics.

It is not clear whether and in what detail the congress discussed the proposal discussed at the Congress of the Circassian People in Cherkessk last November to redraw internal borders within the Russian Federation to create a Circassian republic that would comprise the regions of the North Caucasus where Circassians live compactly. Adygeya's Circassians, who account for around 24 percent of the republic's population of around 450,000, are in favor of creating such a republic. Khapay said at the congress last November that he sees "no alternative" to doing so.

But Circassians in Kabardino-Balkaria, who are the largest ethnic group within that republic (55 percent), profess to be perfectly content with the status quo. A session in Nalchik on June 5 of the Kabardino-Balkaria chapter of Adyghe Khase again formally rejected the idea of a unified Circassian republic.

Meeting with Khapay and other prominent Adyghe Khase leaders on the eve of last week's congress, Adygeya President Aslancheryy Tkhakushinov stressed that "we have an interest in the activities of Adyghe Khase remaining a positive consolidating force" in dialogue between ethnic groups. In other words, don't rock the boat.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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