Staunton, March 24 – The arrest of Ingush scholar Zarifa Sautiyeva and her continuing detention has attracted enormous attention and denunciation around the world, but there is a second heroine of the Ingush protests, Izabella Yevloyeva, the founder and irreplaceable editor of the indispensable Fortanga news portal.
The Daptar site, which reports on women, their problems and achievements in the North Caucasus, today features a portrait of this remarkable figure all of whom who follow Ingush developments are indebted to but about whom far fewer know as much as they do about Sautiyeva (daptar.ru/2020/03/24/место-женщины-на-баррикадах/).
Before Yevkurov made the deal with Chechnya that cost Ingushetia 10 percent of its territory, Yevloyeva was, her interviewer Sevil Abdurakhmanova says, “a successful television journalist, a beloved wife, and a model mother of four children.” But when the protests began, she felt that she had no choice but to be on the other side the barricades with her people.
Yevloyeva says she always wanted to be a journalist at least in part by her strong need to combat injustice. Her parents discouraged her and she started law school but before finishing, she got married, returning to journalism after her children were old enough to get along without her full-time.
She worked in local television until the fall of 2018 but when she saw how much that outlet was distorting the situation, she left the station and begun her own website, Fortanga. The name is taken from the river which divided Chechnya and Ingushetia before Yevkurov gave away so much Ingush land.
It was sometimes psychologically difficult for her to be one of the protesters and a journalist as well, Yevloyeva says. But “during all the time of the protests, not one man said that my place was in the kitchen. More than that, when it was necessary to get through the crowd … men made a corridor so that I could peacefully pass without coming into contact with any.”
When the regime turned loose trolls against her, the journalist continues, she was always supported by her husband. Her children found it difficult that their mother could be the subject of attacks, but they took that possibility seriously after the police searched her parents’ home and she concluded that she was at risk of arrest after Sautiyeva was.
Yevloyeva says that there were only three women among the activists, herself, Sautiyeva and Anzhela Matiyeva, who was involved with talks with Magas and the presidential plenipotentiary. She tried to discourage Sautiyeva from returning to Ingushetia after Yevkurov was replaced but failed, and there was no question of her leaving Russia because she does not have a passport.
The Fortanga editor did have a passport and had travelled in Europe and when she realized she was at risk of arrest, she left both her position at Fortanga, only to resume it later, and Ingushetia, a step she concluded was necessary but about which she feels some guilt. Nonetheless, she continues the struggle from abroad.
Yevloyeva says that the only way she can convey how difficult this time has been for her is to say that it has been equivalent to the one she went through several years ago when she lost a young child. Even if she wanted to, she says, she could not allow herself to stop being a journalist now.
“My struggle already is not for land but for those people who are in detention,” Yevloyeva says. “I simply cannot forget about them. I will shout about what is happening in Ingushetia or in Russia to the entire world both as a journalist and as a woman.”