Sochi, “Black Widows” and Double Standards

140120182228-russia-black-widow-grab-story-topApparently the police inside the Sochi security zone are hunting one Ruzanna “Salima” Ibragimova,  widow of a member of a North Caucasus insurgent. Indeed, according to some accounts she is only one of 4 such female terrorists there. Cue, first of all, the “black widow” meme: apparently, being the widow of an insurgent instantly makes a suicide bomber out of you. Almost every bombing in Russia seems to be attributed to such a “black widow” at first, even if such claims are often dropped. But I’m more exercised by the media flurry that followed the news. I get it: news media want splashy stories, and “Russians hunting suicide bomber in Sochi as countdown to Games tick down” has a pleasingly 24esque vibe and also provides the usual opportunity to question the competence of the Russian security measures and, for some US sources, a chance to talk up the need for some kind of contingency emergency evacuation plan for their athletes. But…

1. Although many accounts have glided over this, the belief is not that Ibragimova is in Sochi, but she may be in Sochi. Presumably she was a person of interest, under a degree of surveillance, and has dropped off the FSB’s radar. This happens, and may or may not mean anything significant. In the circumstances, it would be foolhardy for the authorities not to work on the assumption that she may be in or heading towards Sochi.

2. Ideally there would be no question of any suspected terrorist getting into the Sochi zone — and it may well be that none have. But shouldn’t we be pleased that the Russians are (a) able to identify potential attackers and (b) are (pro)actively looking for them, just in case? I don’t want to sound like some shill for the FSB here, but isn’t this what we’d want and expect the host nation’s security forces to be doing? There are lots of bad news stories from Sochi — the corruption, the late and shoddy construction, the sheer hubris and lunacy of the very notion of staging the Winter Olympics there — but this is not necessarily one of them.

3. Under what circumstances would it be necessary, much less appropriate for US forces directly to evacuate US citizens from Sochi? If, gods forbid, there is a terrorist incident in Sochi — more unlikely than not — then that is exactly what all those Russian security and emergency forces are there for. Did Boston need to be evacuated after the Tsarnaevs’ attack? And would it require foreign forces? This is just a gratuitous finger in the eye to the Russian, another symbolic discussion that in practice will come to nothing, but in the process generates unnecessary friction.

Сочи, «Черные Вдовы» и двойные стандарты

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  1. Good points, all.


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