Friday, August 19, 2005

A Woman's Courage

Larissa Kudziyeva is a very courageous woman. She and her two children were taken hostage in Beslan last year. Almost a year later she is able to leave the hospital after having 11 operations. She is weak and disfigured but her story is one of courage and determination to save her children.

Perhaps it was because of her striking looks that the hostage-takers singled her out as she tried to protect Zaurbek, then 7, and Medina, her 20-year-old daughter. Perhaps it was because she was wearing black to mourn the death of her husband a few months before.

She cannot explain exactly why one of the hostage-takers, calling himself Abdullah, took her aside on September 2, the second day of the siege, and made his spine-chilling offer. He said that Zaurbek, Medina and any other relatives could walk free. All she had to do was to strap on a belt of explosives and become a shakhidka, or suicide bomber, in support of their demands that Russia withdraw from neighbouring Chechnya.

Dumbfounded, Mrs Kudziyeva asked if she could have time to think. Go and sit. You all have time, she remembers Abdullah saying.
Could you do this?
In hindsight, Mrs Kudziyeva says, she knows that she could not trust her captors. Yet her relationship with them may have helped to save her and several children. On the sieges third day, she persuaded Ibrahim to let her move a dozen children into an exercise room next to the sports hall, which was cooler and had a small bathroom attached.

After the first explosion of the attempted rescue started a fire in the sports hall, Ibrahim led her with Medina, Zaurbek and several other children into the schools canteen.

It was then that she saw two special forces soldiers coming through the window. Ibrahim was close to her, but fired only at the soldiers. He then threw two hand grenades, one of which landed a metre from her.

She threw herself on Zaurbek and Medina, absorbing the force of the blast in her right arm and cheek. When she came round on September 8, a doctor told her that she should consider it her new birthday.

Everything is a miracle that I can see and that I managed to shield my children, she said. I was halfway in the grave and I pulled myself out. London Times
I would like to think I would because as a mother, when my child is threatened, my first instinct is to do anything and everything to protect him. It's a natural instinct for any person to want to protect children. It is what made the attack against the school so horrendous.

People who target children are despicable, base creatures and no amount of thinking based onreligious religous beliefs can justify such a barbaric act. Respect for life, all life, is the cornerstone of Judeo-Christian beliefs and it is those beliefs that will ultimately help us defeat those jihadis who target women, children, and those just going about their daily lives.