Staunton, August 17 – The authorities in Ingushetia, often with faked “evidence,” have been able to get court orders to close down most of the NGOs in the republic, including many far from politics; but those they haven’t yet or which refuse to stop operations, they harass to make their work more difficult, Izabella Yevloyeva says.
The founding editor of the independent news portal Fortanga says that the new round of attacks on NGOs followed the beginning of the protests against the border deal with Chechnya in the fall of 2018. Approximately 20 NGOs have been ordered closed, although not all of them have in fact ceased operation (kavkazr.com/a/30789574.html).
The powers that be typically charge NGOs with being foreign agents because that is an extremely elastic category, and they are not above inventing “evidence” in support of their charges, including most notoriously the publication of an entirely invented interview on a pro-regime website, Yevloyeva says.
Among those closed or subject to continuing harassment are NGOs involved with young people, human rights, and education. And the powers have even gone after a group providing psychological support for women and children, a group that has taken no political stands and operates on a shoestring budget.
Yevloyeva cites Ruslan Mutsolgov, head of the MASHR human rights organization and chairman of the Ingush section of the Yabloko party, on the ways in which the authorities have sought to close or, failing that, to harass any independent activity by Ingush society. According to him, the foreign agent legislation is the favored tool.
To seek to restrict or ban an NGO as a foreign agent, he says, it is now quite sufficient that the group have any links with abroad; and if it does, the authorities view that as an indication that it is engaged in “political activity” regardless of the facts. For example, groups seeking to improve health care have been declared political for asking questions about medicines.
Merely asking those questions, Mutsolgov says, represents in the view of prosecutors and judges an effort “to influence the organs of power” to change their decisions. Each time the powers get away with this, other officials assume they can do the same; and so attacks on political NGOs have led to attacks on NGOs of all kinds.
He suggests that all this is the result of the powers that be taking their revenge on society for the protests and argues that this attack is undermining hopes for progress in Ingushetia. NGOs are far more effective and less expensive than government bodies nominally responsible for the same areas.