Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on FIFA to reverse a decision that would allow Egypt to base its national football team in the Chechen capital Grozny for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
The watchdog called on the world football governing body to address the scores of severe rights abuses that occur in Chechnya on a daily basis before allowing the Egyptians to base their national team in the volatile North Caucasus.
HRW said in its statement that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, “exerts a ruthless grip on the region where extrajudicial killings, torture, and forced disappearances are common…there is a near-total repression of critics, journalists, and LGBT people.”
The 2018 World Cup is scheduled to be held between June 14 and July 15 in 11 Russian cities — Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, and Samara.
Grozny, the Chechen capital, was selected by Egypt from a list of 67 options presented to World Cup finalists as a possible training base in the run-up to the tournament. FIFA has said it will continue to monitor the suitability of allowing a team to be based in the region but has no plans to reverse its decision.
“FIFA’s decision to use Grozny for a World Cup team camp is absolutely shocking and outrageous,” said HRW associate director Jane Buchanan, before insisting that the world football’s governing body should do everything possible to avoid legitimising “the abusive Kadyrov regime”.
Ramzan Kadyrov is deeply involved in the local football scene as the owner of Akhmat Grozny, the popular club named after his father and where his nephew Khalid Kadyrov is a member of the squad.
Kadyrov has relied on his feared security forces – known as “Kadyrovtsi” – to stifle any dissent during a reign of terror that has been marred by numerous reports of extrajudicial killings and torture.
Chechnya fought two devastating independence wars against Russia in the 1990s that killed up to 100,000 people. The small Muslim republic has quieted significantly since Moscow defeated the separatist movement and installed the Kadyrov family into power in the early 2000s. A low-level insurgency and countless cases of forced disappearances and human rights abuses continue to plague the region despite the relative calm.