Some Jews Feel Unsafe on Street During Police Crackdown in Moscow

Some Jews in Moscow, especially those with roots in the Caucasus region and Central Asia, are afraid to leave their homes during a massive security sweep by police in the wake of recent bombings here.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has blamed “Chechen gangsters” for recent apartment building bombings that left more than 200 people dead. He urged that “special attention” be paid to visitors from the Caucasus region, and police are singling out people with dark skin.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the detention of 20,000 non-Muscovites by the Moscow police. Those who were rounded up were victims of police brutality and extortion, the group said.

A number of Jews with dark skin, especially those from the Caucasus and Central Asia, have been detained on the streets, in private homes and at outdoor markets, where many of them work as vendors.

One young man, a Moscow native with a Jewish mother and a Chechen father, said masked police came to his home and harassed his family at night, shortly after the second explosion in Moscow.

“Ten years ago, my parents thought it would be better if I had `Chechen’ instead of `Jewish’ on my papers,” said the 25-year-old owner of an Internet company who did not want to be identified. “Now they see what a mistake they made.”

He said his family now prefers not to leave the house to avoid humiliation and violence.

Another Jew who is originally from Azerbaijan says he was detained for several hours at an outdoor market in southern Moscow. He sent his family back to the Caucasus after the incident.

“People like us cannot feel safe here these days,” the vendor said.

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