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Telegram-Incited Mob at Dagestan Airport Highlights Rising Ethnic and Religious Tensions



On Sunday morning, a Telegram channel named Morning Dagestan (Utro Dagestan) in Dagestan, Russia, alerted its followers about a flight from Tel Aviv arriving that evening. The channel, known for anti-Russian and Islamist views, and not labeled a terrorist organization in Russia, encouraged followers to meet the flight's passengers at Makhachkala airport. By the scheduled arrival time, a large mob had gathered, breaching security and causing chaos on the runway in search of Jewish passengers, while waving Palestinian flags and chanting antisemitic slogans. The police eventually dispersed the crowd and arrested about 60 individuals.


The channel's posts offered specific instructions for harassing arriving passengers and tracking their movements. Additionally, it circulated antisemitic content and messages urging local residents to discriminate against Jews. The channel's rapid growth to over 65,000 subscribers reflects its increasing influence.

The BBC investigation found similar rhetoric in other local Telegram chats, some with no evident political affiliations. For instance, the Avito channel targeted a Jewish family with alleged ties to Israel, and Gorets, with nearly 17,000 subscribers, incited persecution of Jews in the region.


Pavel Durov, Telegram's owner, responded to these events by vowing to block channels that incite violence, leading to Morning Dagestan's unavailability soon after.

Controversially, the channel has been linked to Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian MP and current critic of Vladimir Putin's regime. While Ponomarev admitted to previous connections with Islamist groups in Dagestan and supporting anti-Russia rallies, he denied ongoing involvement with the channel, despite contradictory statements.

The situation escalated into a diplomatic tussle, with Dagestan's governor and Russia's Foreign Ministry accusing Ukraine of influencing the riots. Meanwhile, the channel denied any affiliations with Ponomarev or Ukraine. Ukraine's President Zelensky condemned the airport attack, differing from Putin, who used the incident to criticize U.S. Middle East policies and avoided condemning Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the UK and other countries, but not by Russia.


Dagestan, a region of immense ethnic and religious diversity, has seen tensions exacerbated by regional policies and the proliferation of hateful and misleading content online. Sociologist Rasul Abdulkhalikov cites the local authority's refusal to permit pro-Palestinian rallies as a factor in these rising tensions.


Summary

The incident at Makhachkala airport, driven by a Telegram channel's incitement, reflects broader issues in Dagestan and the Russian Federation. It underscores the complexities of ethnic and religious tensions, the impact of online platforms in spreading hate and misinformation, and the geopolitical implications involving Russia, Ukraine, and broader international relations. The use of social media for organizing and encouraging such acts of violence highlights the challenging intersection of technology, politics, and social unrest.

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Unknown member
Nov 04, 2023

This looks like a Russian inspired attack that backfired. The muslim mob trashes the AP with no security in sight. Then Russian security forces them out. Then the mob starts throwing Rocks at security. The muslims hate the Russians and this is surely a sign of their unrest.

That is the only reason Putin condemned an anti- Israeli attack so harshly.

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