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John Haghor's Presentation During The 6th Circassian Day At The European Parliament On The 7th Of November, 2011

posted by eagle on November, 2011 as CIRCASSIA ADIGA

John Haghor's Presentation During The 6th Circassian Day At The European Parliament On The 7th Of November, 2011

7, November, 2011

For over one hundred and fifty years, successive generations of Circassians have sustained within their hearts the dream of returning to their homeland and rebuilding their nation.  Throughout this period, depending on the geopolitical circumstances of the great powers at the time, this dream fluctuated from appearing to be within reach to being hopelessly distant.  Today, this dream is once again within reach, but due to an entirely new set of circumstances.  First, there is now a growing awareness among Circassians that returning home is not just an emotional calling; it is an absolute requirement for our survival as a people.  Second, astounding developments in technology have provided us with unprecedented opportunities for communication and coordination.  The speed at which we have been able to exchange ideas, identify problems, develop strategies and build consensus on solutions has been remarkable.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, the prominence of international law and universal standards of justice are at all-time highs.  Today, justice matters more than ever and injustice is more unacceptable than ever.  That Circassians are here today discussing their plight and aspirations before the European Parliament is proof of this fact.

This deference to justice is more than just a philosophical pursuit.  It goes without saying that festering injustices often have significant negative externalities, even more so in such the interconnected world that we are in today. Alternatively, improving conditions for certain others within our global network tends to improve conditions for many more, if not the whole.  I believe this is one of the founding rationales of the European Union itself.  Severe disparities in economic opportunity, political representation and social justice within the European continent are unhealthy for the continent as a whole.  Where the EU has taken the initiative to address these disparities, the record of achieving significant measurable change has been impressive.  On occasions when the European leadership has chosen, for one reason or another, to abstain from involvement in deteriorating situations, the continent has witnessed these situations deteriorate even more, at times to catastrophic levels with striking levels of human suffering.

Today, Circassians are faced with the very real possibility of losing our civilization.  As a result, we are witnessing an unprecedented mobilization of Circassians from around the world to attempt to reverse this situation.  At the heart of these efforts is the quest for the right to return to our homeland.  Unfortunately, these events are playing out to a backdrop of a Russian Federation that refuses to acknowledge the historical connection of Circassians to their homeland, Circassia, and is creating policies that significantly exacerbate our problems.  What is emerging now is a classic war of narratives.  One, the authentic story of the people and plight in question and one the artificial yet ultimately self-fulfilling prophecy of a power that is unwilling to address the real issues, and therefor creates different ones.

The Circassian movement to obtain our rights to our homeland and in our homeland has been, from day one, an adamantly peaceful, secular and progressive movement.  It is the epitome of a civil movement, using international laws and standards, information and awareness campaigns and peaceful protest to obtain our rights.  Circassians are a European people with European sensibilities who want to develop with and contribute to Europe.  The hallmarks of Circassian life are rooted in our ancient etiquette, or khabze, which stresses reverence for the old, respect for the young, the high esteem of women in society, hospitality, integrity, tolerance, fairness and courage.  Despite tremendous efforts by the Ottomans and Russians over the centuries to "civilize” us, these virtues are still sacred to us and continue to define us to this day.  Our struggle to obtain our rights shall and must continue in this vain.  If we lose our khabze in our struggle to save our nation, then we lose everything.

However, if a civil movement based on international laws and standards is ignored, then the stage is set for other forces to exploit the frustration and desperation that will have grown.  The forces of militancy and religious extremism stand at the threshold of Circassia, and they will enter with full force once all hope of a civil solution has vanished.  We do not have to stretch our imaginations too far to envision this.  This has already occurred elsewhere in the Caucasus.  Granted, the Western Caucasus is more secular than the East, but many of us understand that this phenomenon has only very little to do with religion.  It has much more to do with a humiliated, abused and powerless people who seek to feel empowered.  The same tactics that transformed a purely nationalist struggle in the East into, in part, a violent extremist movement are already visible in Circassia; the criminalization of peaceful dissent, torture and abuse of innocent youth, murder of activists and journalists, isolation from the rest of the world.  The growth of extremist ideology in Circassia, which is so foreign and irreconcilable with Circassian Khabze, would essentially destroy our nation.  And it would allow for the further encroachment of this destructive force further into Europe.  This alternative narrative, which is being cultivated and imposed against our will, is what we are desperately trying to avoid.

As such, it is quite obvious that EU support for the Circassian civil movement is absolutely critical.  However, it is important for the distinguished members of Parliament to understand what it is that we need them to support.  This is not a separatist movement.  We are not seeking a change in leadership.  We do not wish to evict anyone currently residing in our homeland.  We are not challenging territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.  We are asking for your support to encourage the Russian Federation to implement the natural rights affirmed by the EU and the rest of the world, so that we may save and rehabilitate our nation. We are asking for your support in developing the mechanisms and institutions to save our nation and prevent further deterioration in our homeland while we await Russia’s compliance with international standards.

While many of the initiatives to build a peaceful, vibrant and fulfilling nation must await Russian cooperation, there are a number of areas where EU assistance is particularly needed at present:

-With the increasing frequency of assaults and murders of peaceful Circassian activists in the Russian Federation, a direct channel to the EU to provide censure and/or motivation to investigate these events.

-Official support for the right of return for the Diaspora, as well as other initiatives that will arise towards implementing the rights affirmed in the UNDRIP.

-Increasing to quarterly rate such meetings as today under the auspices of the EU.

-Development of a modernized Circassian language curriculum, to be distributed to the wider Diaspora, and especially and more importantly, its use in a broader mandate to reintroduce such instruction in schools in the homeland.

-Obtaining access to the sessions and work of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and increase awareness of Circassian issues within the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

-Development of a task-force to study and limit the environmental and ecological devastation occurring in Circassia, especially related to Winter Olympics facilities construction.

In closing, Circassians are prepared and willing to do the hard work required to protect and rehabilitate our nation.  Assuring that our movement remains a civil one is of critical importance.  We request that the honorable members of Parliament acknowledge this fact and support us in our efforts, to demonstrate that peaceful and progressive work is the only viable means to obtain meaningful gains for our nation.

John Haghor

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