In the context of the ongoing hostilities in Israel and Palestine, several antisemitic protests and other incidents have occurred in Russia’s North Caucasus region. On 29 October, 2023, hundreds of people, some holding anti-Israel placards and Palestinian flags, stormed the Uytash International Airport in Makhachkala, Dagestan, shouting antisemitic slogans and searching for Jewish passengers arriving on a flight from Israel. Appeals to gather at the airport, block the exit, to “catch” Jews, take pictures of their cars and to track down their addresses had previously been shared on the Telegram channel “Morning Dagestan”. The rioters ran on the airfield, demanded passengers to show them their documents, looking for Israeli passports, and threw stones at a bus with passengers. Passengers had to hide in the airport, some were evacuated by helicopter.
While the police remained inactive first, after several hours, the riot was dispersed. As of 30 October, 2023, over 80 protesters have been arrested, and investigations have been opened under Article 212 of the Russian Criminal Code for the organisation of “mass riots”. While the head of Dagestan, Sergei Melikov, condemned the protests, he and other Russian authorities also blamed Ukraine and the West for the riots, without presenting any evidence supporting their claim.
Before, on 28 October, 2023, a crowd had gathered in front of a hotel in the city of Khasavyurt, Dagestan, and threw stones at the windows after rumors had spread that Jewish refugees were accommodated in the building. Eventually, the police allowed some protesters to enter the hotel in order to check if among the hotel guests there were Jews. In Nalchik, Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, a Jewish center under construction was set on fire, with an antisemitic slogan saying “Death to the Jews” written on the wall. In Cherkessk, Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, demonstrators at anti-Israel demonstrations stated that they “do not want to live next to Jews” and demanded ethnic Jews to be expelled from the region.
The Russian authorities’ encouragement of xenophobia and hatred towards Ukrainians, the West in general, and migrants has, for many years, fueled aggression in society, shifting the boundaries of what is permissible. Russia’s open support for Hamas and their refusal to condemn its crimes were perceived in the regions as a direct signal “from the top”: antisemitism is allowed. While many residents of the North Caucasus experience strong compassion for the civilian population of Palestine, this empathy in no way justifies the antisemitic riots that have broken out in the region.
FIDH and its member organisations, ADC Memorial, the Human Rights Defence Centre Memorial and Citizens’ Watch, call on the Russian authorities to ensure the effective protection of the Jewish population, to carry out thorough and independent investigations in accordance with human rights standards, and to take reasonable measures to prevent further antisemitic violence. As a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Russia is obliged to protect the rights to life and security of its citizens and all under its jurisdiction without any discrimination as to their ethnicity, nationality, religion, or other grounds. This includes the positive obligation to protect individuals from foreseeable threats emanating from private persons or entities.