Cancelling Chechnya

3 August, 2009

For those of you who are not aware, our planned trip to Chechnya has been tragically altered. I had been working for the past couple years on locating a contact in the Caucasus. I had finally managed to make headway on arranging the trip and then tragedy struck.

I had been combing my contacts for help getting to the Caucasus because we wanted to know what life was like on the ground in that troubled area of southern Russia. With Russia officially ending “hostilities” in Chechnya in spring of this year, we knew that the time was right for a photo story trip to the area.

I read an article by Tanya Lokshina (Chechnya: the torchings) that touched on the subject matter I wanted to investigate and cover for AMPP. I contacted her and told her of my desire to travel to Chechnya and asked if she could arrange a contact in the area. She was amazingly helpful and open to my plans. She referred me to Natalya Estemirova, a journalist living in Grozny.

I had only two months to prepare for the trip and arrange all the details. The entry visa for Russia is no easy task and is not a guaranteed success. Communication with Natalya was extremely difficult and was being delayed by various problems. By June I was coming to a make-or-break point. I did not have peace that everything was coming together as I needed them. It was finally decided that two months was not enough time to pull all the pieces together. It was decided to delay the trip to the summer of 2010.

I was in the process of communicating to Natalya about a 2010 trip when I heard news that a journalist had been murdered in Chechnya. The news shocking. I immediately looked for more information and found that it was indeed Natalya. I was taken by various emotions, one of which was guilt. Had there been no delays, I would have been with Natalya at the time she was kidnapped and murdered. My presence would have likely altered the plans of the murderers.

I don’t know what will happen with this trip, but this event has hardened my resolve to cover this story. With Islamic fundamentalism strong in the area, the Christian witness needs to be there as well. It is not a political solution that is needed in the Caucasus.

Further information:

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