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Russia: Chechen Prime Minister Says Danish Groups Unwelcome

Ramzan Kadyrov (file photo) (epa) Chechnya's acting prime minister Ramzan Kadyrov announced yesterday that members of Danish groups will no longer be allowed to enter the republic. Kadyrov explained that the move came in response to the publication by a Danish newspaper of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons, first published in September and subsequently reprinted in other Western European newspapers, have led to protests and unrest in the Islamic world.

PRAGUE, 7 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Chechnya's pro-Moscow leader says Denmark has offended the entire Muslim community and that all Danish groups should pack up and leave the republic.

Kadyrov told Reuters new agency in Grozny that all world leaders should express their opinion about the offensive cartoons.

"They are playing with the feelings of 1 1/2 billion people," Kadyrov said. "This is the most sensitive spot for Muslims in the world. I think the whole world and its leaders should express their opinion about this so it will not happen again. It is frightening even to speak about it. They should answer and apologize to the whole world."

Activities Suspended

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Khalid Vaikhanov today followed up by announcing that Chechnya's pro-Moscow government has decided to suspend the activities of the Danish Refugee Council. The organization, which employs six international and 400 locals in the North Caucasus, is one of the largest foreign aid organizations in the region.

Vaikhanov said the decision is final and will not be reconsidered. However, Russia's federal government has not officially commented on the decision, and some Russian legislators have said that the Chechen government is not qualified to decide on such issues.

"I think the whole world and its leaders should express their opinion about this so it will not happen again. It is frightening even to speak about it. They should answer and apologize to the whole world." -- Ramzan Kadyrov

Arne Vaagen, the head of the Danish Refugee Council's international department, told RFE/RL by telephone from Denmark that the organization has not been formally informed about the decision.

"We don't know," Vaagen said. "We have not received any official message regarding the statement of Mr. Kadyrov yet."

No Contest

Vaagen stressed that the council is working in the region in order to help people, and he noted the importance of cooperation with the authorities in fulfilling this mission. With this in mind, he said that if ordered to leave the Danish Refugee Council would do so and not seek to contest the decision.

Ruslan Badalov is an ethnic Chechen who heads the Chechen National Rescue Committee, a human rights group based in neighboring Ingushetia. He said the Danish Refugee Council is indispensable to Chechnya.

"It is doing a lot [to help Chechen refugees] and also did a lot during the duration of this military conflict," Badalov said. "It is one of the most important large and serious organizations, which has helped and is helping in all spheres."

A representative of the Danish Refugee Council stressed that it is working in the region in order to help people and noted the importance of cooperation with the authorities in fulfilling this mission.

Badalov said he too is outraged that the Prophet Muhammad was mocked but noted that "neither the Danish government nor the Danish Refugee Council are responsible for the cartoons." Badalov also pointed out that nobody has given Kadyrov the right to speak and act on behalf of the Chechen Muslims.

Aleksei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Center think tank in Moscow, said he was not surprised by Kadyrov's declaration. Malashenko said the pro-Moscow politician takes advantage of every opportunity to exhibit his Muslim loyalty. Malashenko said Kadyrov has recently expressed his support for polygamy, declared jihad against separatists, and has strongly criticized gambling.

"In some situations Kadyrov has this so-called right of ex-territoriality (freedom of actions) in Chechnya," Malashenko said. "Also the fact that he is kicking them out (the Danish Refugee Council) perfectly coincides with the negative attitude Moscow has toward any of those noncommercial organizations that exist. I think that, in this case, the two opinions have coincided absolutely."

Still Not Official

State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov stressed today that the Russian government has not yet made an official decision on the matter.

"The statement by the acting chairman of the government of the Chechen Republic is probably his personal statement, it is not a government decision yet," Malashenko said. " I think such statements should be at least passed through an official governing body first. I view it only as a personal statement."

Gryzlov described Kadyrov's statement as "purely emotional" and said the decision is not in accordance with Russian law.

The Cartoon Controversy

The Cartoon Controversy

Islamabad residents protesting against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons on February 15 (epa)

An Unfolding Conflict

19 February 2006: A full-page apology by "Jyllands-Posten," dated 5 February, appears in papers in Saudi Arabia. Churches in Libya, Nigeria, and Pakistan are attacked, as too is the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia.

18 February: Forty-five die in Nigeria as churches, hotels, and shops are torched in a predominantly Muslim northern state. Roberto Calderoli resigns from the Italian cabinet after being blamed for riots in Libya that ended with the destruction of the Italian Embassy and the loss of 10 lives. The Libyan interior minister and local police chiefs are sacked for using disproportionate force to quell the riots.

17 February: Ten Libyan protestors are killed during a demonstration that culminates with the burning of the Italian Embassy in Tripoli. Protestors link the demonstrations to the decision of an Italian minister to wear T-shirts showing the cartoons.

16 February: The Russian media watchdog pledges to take a tough line against any organization accused of "insulting religious feelings."

15 February: The Danish government says the Iraqi government wants Danish troops to remain. A far-right Italian minister, Roberto Calderoli, says he plans to wear T-shirts emblazoned with some of the "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons. In Pakistan, three more protestors are killed, one in Lahore and two in Peshawar, as tens of thousands demonstrate.

14 February: Pakistani police shoot dead two protesters in Lahore. In Iran, crowds attack the British and German embassies. Political leaders in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah call for Danish troops to leave the country. In Israel, a cartoonist launches a competition for the best anti-Semitic cartoons by Jews themselves. In Europe, the Portugese president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, promises support for Denmark and the democratic system in a dispute that reminds him of his country's dictatorial past.

13 February: A leading Iranian newspaper, "Hamshahri," invites cartoons about the Holocaust in a competition aimed at testing the limits of free speech in the West.

12 February: Intelligence reports suggest Danes in Indonesia are under threat. Denmark urges its nationals to leave the country. It had previously made similar appeals to Danes in many Muslim countries.

10 February: Thousands of Malayans protest, as Western and Muslim political, cultural, and religious leaders gather to discuss differences between the Western and Muslim worlds.

9 February: The Swedish government forces offline a website that asked readers to submit their own cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

8 February: Security forces open fire on protestors in the Afghan city of Qalat, killing four, on a day of angry and sometimes violent scenes around the world. Washington accuses the Syrian and Iranian governments of inciting violence.

7 February: Iran's largest newspaper invites cartoons of the Holocaust, saying it wants to test the limits of Western freedom of expression.

6 February: Widespread unrest over the cartoons reported in Afghanistan. One person was reported killed and four wounded in Laghman Province.

6 February: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expresses "distress" over the publication of the cartoons, but condemns the violent reactions in the Muslim world.

5 February: The Danish Consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, is torched.

4 February: Mobs burn the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Chilean embassies in Syria. Protests in Denmark turn violent.

1 February: Papers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain run reprints of the cartoons in a show of solidarity.

30 January: The EU says it will take World Trade Organization (WTO) action if the boycott persists. Several Islamic groups, including Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, call for a worldwide boycott of Danish products. Masked gunmen in storm EU office in Gaza. The Danish paper apologizes.

29 January: "Jyllands-Posten" prints a statement in Arabic saying the drawings were published in line with freedom of expression and not a campaign against Islam. Palestinians burn Danish flags and Libya announces it will close its embassy in Denmark.

28 January: The Danish company Arla places advertisements in Middle Eastern newspapers to try to stop boycott of its products.

27 January: Thousands denounce the cartoons during Friday prayers in Iraq.

26 January: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador to Denmark and initiates a boycott of Danish goods.

10 January 2006: The cartoons are reprinted by the Norwegian newspaper "Magazinet."

14 November: Jamaat-e-Islami, a Pakistan-based group, protests in Islamabad.

20 October: Ambassadors of 10 Muslim countries complain to Danish Prime Minister. "Jyllands-Posten" reports that illustrators have received death threats.

30 September 2005: The Danish newspaper "Jyllands-Posten" publishes 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

(compiled by RFE/RL)

See also:

Calming The Storm

Former Jailed Iranian Cartoonist Discusses Muhammad Caricatures

Western, Eastern Media View Cartoon Crisis As Test Of Values