[FOUNTAIN]Rights abuse can be found in odd places

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[FOUNTAIN]Rights abuse can be found in odd places

Black Widow is a nickname for the poisonous female spider that eats the male after mating. In the international politics, Black Widow can refer to Muslim widows who don a black dress, more specifically the young Chechen widows who lost husbands to the Russian Army and then become suicide bombers. One was among the Chechen terrorists who seized an elementary school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September.
After the Beslan school standoff ended tragically, the Russian army in Chechnya began hunting Black Widows. It was a merciless roundup of war widows. At daybreak, a dozen of Russian soldiers would storm in, beat up a family and take away the widow. It is not known how many were caught or whether any survived. Bodies of some captured widows were found in the war-torn Chechen capital of Grozny. Most had bruises and cuts on their bodies. The few women who lived are unable to testify to what happened to them because the trauma left them aphasic. The international community condemned the witch hunt of the Russian Army as an inhuman act of violence.
However, the Human Rights Watch’s report released on Oct. 20 says that Russian soldiers are also victims of violence. The report titled “The Wrongs of Passage: Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of New Recruits in the Russian Armed Forces” points out the cruelties a Russian soldier go through. “Shaving with a lighter” is a form of punishment a senior officer orders to a first-year conscript. New recruits spend the daytime attending the seniors and being punished and often have no time to shave. When they were caught shaving in the bathroom at night, they would be beaten up with pipes wrapped around with wet towels. Next morning, when they show up unshaven, their senior will burn the hair with a lighter.
Professor Vladimir Tikhonov, who teaches Korean studies at Oslo University, says that Korea and Russia have similar abusive culture within the military and an overall military culture in society. The recent abuse case of a junior police officer in Gyeonggi province showed a glimpse of the reality that the vicious cycle remains unchanged. According to the Human Rights Watch, Korea’s human rights condition has greatly improved recently but still is not where it needs to be.


by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.
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