By Thameen Kheetan
AMMAN - Jordanians of Circassian origin will organise a sit-in outside the Russian embassy in Amman on Saturday to protest against the selection of Sochi as the 2014 Winter Olympics venue.
"We declare our complete rejection to holding the 2014 Winter Olympics on the remains of our grandparents and the skulls of our parents in Sochi,” the organisers said in a statement, referring to the city that their ancestors fled after a long war with the Russian Empire that ended in 1864.
"How do free people in this world accept that the Olympic flag of love and global peace be raised on the bodies and remains of our grandparents?” the statement added.
The sit-in also marks "mourning day”, the 257th anniversary of their community’s displacement.
Sources at the Russian embassy in Amman refused to comment on the issue, when contacted by The Jordan Times yesterday.
Similar protests are planned in front of Russian diplomatic missions in around 45 countries where Circassian communities live, organisers said.
The statement also called on the Russian government to recognise "the genocide which was committed by the Russian Empire, aiming to uproot the historical existence of Circassians in their land”, adding that such recognition is "indispensable in order to open new horizons for a future that is based on understanding and peace”.
On May 21, 1864, a 102-year-old war between the Russian Empire and the Circassians officially ended, with thousands of the latter leaving their homeland, according to local Circassian historians.
Waves of Circassian immigration during the late 19th and the early 20th centuries reached today’s Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and historical Palestine, while many died on the way, they said.
"When our ancestors converted to Islam some 300 years ago, the Russians didn’t like that,” Adnan Kalimat, the head of the Circassian Tribal Council in the Kingdom, told The Jordan Times.
Over 1.5 million Circassians either died or were displaced, according to Nart Qakhoon, an Arabic literature researcher, and one of the organisers of Saturday’s demonstration.
He believes religion was not the only reason behind the war, citing the strategic location of the Caucasus, where Circassians lived.
"The main goal was occupying the Caucasus at any price… as it links Europe with Asia and is rich in resources,” Qakhoon told The Jordan Times.
"Until now, during Olympics-related construction work, they find mass graveyards but keep this secret,” he claimed.
Jordan’s Circassian community is estimated at 200,000 people, who are represented along with the Chechens by three Lower House seats.
Historians say the first Circassians arrived in Jordan in 1878 and similar waves of immigration continued up until 1906.