CIRCASSIAN POLITEIA, YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ANYTHING YET
“No one expects the repatriation to Russia anymore, today a new Circassian transnational structure has been created designed with their focus on the Diaspora not on Russia”
PRAGUE --- Today we will have an unusual "Round Table" because our guests are in different parts of the world . One is in the US and the other in Australia, and they both happen to be Circassian activists. Andzor Kabard is with us on the line from New York and Alan Dja Mirze from Sydney.
Demis Polandov: It is September 15th, this recording commenced at 15:00. The reason I mention this is because, exactly at this moment the international multimedia press centre of "Russia Today" is holding a press conference titled topic ‘Circassians’: for three days." As I understand you’re a Circassian activists. I have known of you and your work for many years now. I know that the organisers of this press conference, “of course” have not invited you to attend. Therefore, simultaneously in contrast to this fact, we are holding this conversation with you today. I am from Prague, and you guys are from New York and Sydney.
My first question is to Andzor:
The Circassian issue appears to be on the agenda for Russia recently. For a long time there has hardly been any mention of it. As far as I understand, it all started thanks Maxim Shevchenko, a well-known Russian public figure who suddenly declared that Russia should take Circassians from Syria, because they are the Indigenous people of the Russian Federation, as the Russian Federation has a responsibility to this nation. Thereafter began a public discussion on the issue. Why do you think the Circassian issue has been raised all of a sudden. Is it related solely to the humanitarian crisis that we are seeing with the Syrian refugees?
Andzor Kabard: There are two determining factors that have set the discussion points on the Circassian refugees from Syria in Russia today. First being, that same hysteria, which in closely followed in Russia apparently for reasons of concerns in relation to “the humanitarian catastrophe” in Europe, which “will end soon” due to the influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. The second point is today the ground is slipping from under the feet of the International Circassian Association (ICA) , as they scrabble to display to the powers that be their relevance and usefulness in their bid to save face. We will see this on the 19th when the ICA holds its meeting in Nalchik.
Demis Polandov: Have they succeeded in producing anything to date to show? What exactly is being offered today by ICA? What has been the reaction from Russian authorities, say towards the Shevchenko proposal for instance? As I understand, Circassian organizations support his proposal...
Andzor Kabard: With regard to the Shevchenko proposal, and how the Russian authorities have responded. This is evidenced clearly on the information portal of the Federal Agency “Regions.ru”, where a mass of deputies of the Russian Federation Parliament unsubscribed to the idea of allowing repatriation of Circassians, oddly enough including, the clergy who today voice opinions on all concerns of the Russian Federation, for reasons unknown? They all have absolute unanimity, that Shevchenko’s proposal and its timing is absurd, and that under no circumstances should Circassians be allowed into the Russian Federation.
As for question on the usefulness of the ICA authorities... Well, it continues to serve its purpose in the same way as it always has. On one side It’s an intelligence network – on the other, it’s a propaganda machine. The “tourism” opportunities from from Turkey, Syria, Jordan to Sochi etc. – proved they are a “progressive force” alongside with Russia in these days of difficulty and sanctions from the West. Nothing’s changed, they are, as they were still going about things in the same way as did back in the day of the anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Union.
Demis Polandov: I Have a question for our guest from Sydney: Alan, you head the Australian Circassian association and speak on its behalf. Can you tell us, are you appealing to the Russian authorities on behalf of the Circassian refugees from Syria? I know that you currently have an appeal with the UN concerning the fate of Circassians from Syria, could you inform us if it also included any appeals to the Russian authorities?
Alan Dja Mirze: Yes we did appeal to the UN and Australia and other nations. Our appeal to the Australian Government is to get help for Circassian refugees from Syria. The petition was signed by around 10 thousands Circassians. Its asked Australia to provide urgent assistance and asylum to Circassians, those who consider themselves to be “Circassian” refugees from Syria. It also stated that Circassians have been “refugees” from the time of the Russo-Caucasian war, and not only in connection with the present day conflict in Syria.
We “ Circassians ” have been displaced several times in our history, and now again for the fourth time. The petition touches on critical aspects of great concern for Circassians, one such issue is our “Identity”– not as an “undefined” element of the total mass of refugees, rather a minority. This aspect just happens to be a prime focus of the UNHCR, this has proven to be an important cited aspect of the petition. We asked Australia for help on the grounds of and consistent with the such customary practices permitted within international law.
Demis Polandov: Have you received any answers from the Australian authorities?
Alan Dja Mirze: Australia has agreed to increase the refugee intake to 12 thousand from Syria, Jordan and Turkey focusing on Minorities. This I believe is a positive response not only to us, but also to all the other minorities who appealed as well . I know for sure that we are not the first or only organization or ethnic minority that had filed this type of a petition.
Demis Polandov: Actually, it was my initial question, did you appeal to other states other than Australia e.g. Russia?
Alan Dja Mirze: Actually we did not influence or determine the direction of this appeal, This was the decision of the people appealing. This was the actual “WILL” of Circassian refugee appellants themselves, not us. Our job was only to assist and advise. No, no one at all asked anything in regards to Russia as far as I am aware. We asked Australia, America, New Zealand and other states in this region on behalf of the refugees.
Demis Polandov: But you must have received answers? For example, if you wrote to the authorities of the United States, did you get any reply’s?
Alan Dja Mirze: Yes, The protocols in regards to the refugees steered us via the UNHCR rout. In Geneva is where we made presentations and subsequently received consultations in return. We are acting today on the advice received thus far.
Demis Polandov: do you mean The Office of the UN high Commissioner for Refugees?
Alan Dja Mirze: A copy of the petition was handed to the UNHCR and consultations were held specifically in relation to the ethnic Indigenous Circassians refugees an ethnic “Minority” fleeing war in Syria, The talks were headed by representatives of the Australian refugee council.
UNHCR representatives said that Circassians fleeing Syria would be recognised as a distinct ethnic minority with a unique history. This means that, Syrian citizens of ethnic Circassian heritage upon identifying themselves as belonging to the ethnic Circassian minority. Circassians will be recognised as belonging to a distinct ethnic minority group and not just ethnic Syrians or just Syrian Citizens seeking refugee status. The UNHCR defines different categories for refugees and consults with and advises States on the most venerable groups. This process determines the degree of assistance they receive as a result. The main purpose and function that we were tasked with by the petition, I believe was achieved .
Demis Polandov: I Have a question for New York. Andzor, the topic for the meeting in Moscow is “The Circassians, Future, Past and Present”, as much as I can gather from what you have stated previously and in print , is indicative of the fact that Russian politicians and MPs reject any possible future with Circassians. who as a direct consequence of exile due to the Russo-Caucasian war. found themselves outside the territory of Imperial Russia and her subsequent Imperial colonial states and territories. That is, a future with Russia is at this stage futile and nonsensical?
What does this mean for those Circassians who today are fleeing war. Where can they preserve their identity today. Generally, for example were can it be done, in the U.S. perhaps Germany. As far as I know, these are countries with already quite a large established Circassian community?
Andzor Kabard: In fact, there is a community of Syrian Circassians from the Golan Heights In the USA today. About four thousand ethnic Circassian people are concentrated in the state of New Jersey, an hour away from new York. It just so happens that the American Circassians hosted “Circassian day“ a few days ago, where Circassians from Canada and Germany, whom you just mentioned also attended. This is a prime example, evidenced by the successful adaptation and integration into American society by a closely knit ethnic minority that managed to seamlessly and simultaneously migrate and adapt an entire community of Circassians from Syria to the USA. This precedent stands, and can be successfully repeated again in the near future, should the United States flex’s its political will in this direction.
In principal, you would be hard pressed to find anybody that cares, what is being said about the Circassians in Russia today. Everything Russia had to say on the issue she said with her actions, specifically back in autumn of 2012 ,when Just a year before in 2011, we relentlessly bombarded authorities with countless appeals and letters in regards to the evacuation, asylum and repatriation of Circassians from Syria. This is only a tiny spike of activity compared with the broader Circassian community activities in relation the “Circassian issue” of the last 25 years. This is where Circassians simply year round every year appealed to Russia demanding Russia to recognise Circassians as a nation in exile and to open repatriation opportunities for Circassians wanting to come home.
This is totally in line with the Russia’s narrative, she has been consistent with her attitude towards us for the past 150 years. Four times Russia has changed the name of her Government, yet her politics towards the Circassians remains unchanged. This is why, whatever Russia has to say on the issue of Circassians is largely seen today as only spin, and disregarded by most of those who today live outside her territory. Because of this, it’s been long since anyone has any hope remaining for “repatriation” to Russia.
That’s why you are seeing the creation of new organisation today, New Transnational Circassian Structures that are solely focused of the Circassian Diaspora and who are also in no way geared to react or care for the opinions of Russia, or anything like that.
Demis Polandov: I wanted to ask you to elaborate on these supranational structures that would unite the Diaspora. A conversation was sparked recently in the Russian press, on this topic as it happens. It claims that Circassians are attempting to create such structures, and interestingly enough Andzor, they were specifically talking of you. Could you shed some light on this for us and explain what is happening here?
Andzor Kabard: Judging by the excerpts that were featured in this article you mention which I have not read completely yet, they are indeed excerpts taken from our original working documents “somehow” and ended up in the hands of this apparent journalist. It mentions the "Circassian Politeia” which really is the name of this “Body” that we are launching. This does confirm that aspects of our work have ended up in the Russian press. If we were to comment on the rest of this fantastical article which reads like an action drama screenplay, one can instantly conclude that it is absolute rubbish and nonsense. This “saga” departs from the truth at the point where the journalist attempted to cram everyone into one epic joint venture conspiracy , from the CIA, to the Georgians, and Jamestown Foundation. Offcourse in the real world all these entities have absolutely no relevance or involvement whatsoever to do with the Circassian Politeia, we can only wish, who wouldn’t want to work with legitimate government authorities? unfortunately it’s just our luck (joked Andzor). No one from these organisations has ever made any advances for collaboration with us.
This effort is 100% organic and grass roots, initiated first in January 2013 by our sorely missed deceased brother Albert Kazharov who passed in August 2013 tragically. First negotiated the establishment of a new Circassian organisation in London modelled on some elements of Zionist organisations. With Alberts death, the idea also ceased to to exist for some time. As for what prospects lay ahead for the idea and how it is developing today, well let’s just say, you haven’t seen nothing yet, In time all will be revealed!
Demis Polandov: Alan, are you also somehow involved in this project?
Alan Dja Mirze: Yes, and we invite everyone else who wants to peacefully work in the development of our Nation. As Circassians we all collectively possess the full legal inalienable right and capacity to be self-determined. This is a good noble cause that I support. We, Circassians, have the right to live in the same capacity as the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Australians and all the other people of this world. To hold a contrary position would be extreme. We are dealing with the question of the future of the Circassians and Circassia, and today, for me ‘Circassia,’ exists in my heart.
Demis Polandov: If we are talking about Zionism as a movement for the return of the Jewish people to a homeland of their ancestors (this is the ideology of Zionism). Is this the same context for “the Circassian Issue”? You just said that Circassia is in your heart... Are we talking specifically about the main strategic objectives of the Circassians returning to their homeland, which today is located in the territory of the Russian Federation – Circassia? or are we talking about the creation of a kind of a supranational structure in order to unite the Circassians in the Diaspora-at-large, to preserve the culture?
Alan Dja Mirze: There is no “CIRCASSIA” within the confines of the ”Russian federation” “territory”.
Demis Polandov: Yes, I understand, that no such entity exists in the Russian Federation today...
Alan Dja Mirze: This is why to date, so called authorities choose to remain silent on these matters. As the narrative has been largely misguided and fallacious, that in reality has no basis. As a consequence the simple truth has vanished as discussion topics and definitions are slowly replaced with fantastical nonissues and presumptions about who “we” are our possibilities and future.
In truth what does exist today, is an important and undeniable fact and that is, in the world today there is a very large number of people that exist who identify themselves as “CIRCASSIANS”.
We are committed to the consolidation of the “Circassian Identity”. I know ,that we will return to CIRCASSIA when God himself will allow it and not before. Until then, I have little worry of it. This is why, we are confidently working only on the aspects of “our lives” that we have the ability to control. For us today, that means our minds, and our hearts.
Andzor Kabard: I would like to expand upon what was said by Alan, a few specific points. The main challenges facing the Circassians in the Diaspora today would be, to be able to survive as a distinct people and maintain the ability to transmit to our progeny our unique Autochthonous identity. Specifically, literally this is the “firmware” of our “Circassian transnation”. These are also the key objectives for the “CIRCASSIAN POLITEIA” and to generate some subjectivity in the international arena.
If we are to speak the Church's language, the main charisma of the CIRCASSIAN POLITEIA will likely be “Education”. This is largely because this is the backbone of any society, especially a nation dispersed amongst many States of the world. This is an actual structuring of a network.
Speaking further on relations and repatriation to Russia, Once repatriation was a great, great hope of the Circassian people. I think as a goal, reunification with the Motherland will always remain for Circassians. But, within the boundaries of the foreseeable future, this goal is not achievable today, for the reasons, that a mass repatriation would be simply be impossible today, as long as Russia maintains effective control over the territory of historical Circassia. We must come to realise this and shed any illusions we may have in regards to this. The second point is the vain hope that a constructive dialogue on this matter with Russia is possible, this leads to paralysis in the Diaspora.
We will hope to contribute to a more fundamental dyking and strengthening of positions where most of our people live “The Diaspora” and where they will live in the foreseeable future. Our goal is to create lobbying centres, a national education system. A great deal of effort to ensure that the Circassians are able to transmit their identity, for as long as it is needed, if necessary even if 40 generations surpasses, until such time were we can at last realise this “repatriation”, that Circassians have spoken of for so long now.
Demis Polandov: Andzor, what about support? I understand Australian Circassians support this, but is there support for this from the larger Diaspora nations, such as in Turkey?
Andzor Kabard: Most Circassians live in Turkey, of course the main market for our product is the Anatolian Circassians. Off course we are dealing with and are in contact with namely them. Ultimately this cannot be good news for the ICA, because, it is apparent that their activity on this front, sooner or later will inevitably collapse.
Demis Polandov: Alan, I know you have another initiative: You have proposed a Circassian passport. could you tell us a little more and explain perhaps what the Circassian passport would be used for ?
Alan Dja Mirze: The Main function of the Circassian passport – is the identification of the Circassian Nation, the belonging and membership of individuals to a distinct group “ The Circassian Nation ” a collective recognition of one another.
Why is this important today? This action has proven to be critically important today because, now more specifically in relation to the Syrian refugee crisis, were the UNHCR has stated a primary focus determining prioritisation for assistance will be in consideration and “focus” on “Minorities”. As a people caught up in this tragic situation it is imperative for Circassians when appealing for refugee status with the UNHCR or any other State or NGO to identify themselves as being, first as belonging to a Minority , that is an “Ethnic Circassian” citizens of Syria not just Syrian citizens. If Circassians fleeing Syria are to have any hope with registration for asylum in light of the focus held by the UNHCR. Then it is imperative that the people insist on an ethnic Circassian identity, not a general only Syrian one, e.g. one may well may be a citizen of Syria.
[On the other hand A Circassian passport may help establish ones ethnic Circassian identity, and legitimately used as a form of ethnic or personal identification documentation this is permissible within international law. Internationally the passports would be recognised for the authority mandated by the “collective national will” the Circassian Passport will represent”. This is nothing new and is something akin to a precedent already long established with “internal passports” of some states and also with the Tibetan green book (http://tibet.net/support-tibet/pay-green-book/) or the Red cross passports. It finds further support in International law, namely with Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government…”]
Andzor Kabard: I would like to add that, the "CIRCASSIAN POLITEIA" needs to officiate the consolidation of the “Circassian Identity” through the means of passportisation of the Circassian Nation, who today are living dispersed in diverse areas of the globe. It is via these means, we will be able to forever resolve the issue of a one unified body for the Circassian nation.
Translated by Richard Ashby Saunders for The Circassian News Network.
Photo (Circassian Nation)