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'The first people of freedom': Taxi driver recalls life in Chechen warzone

 
The Bulgarian
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Bulgaria
09/30/2012 05:35 AM
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'The first people of freedom': Taxi driver recalls life in Chechen warzone
Musa is one of Grozny's many share taxi drivers, but he’s also a local celebrity for giving free rides to those in need. It's all part of his daily routine, which saw him saving dozens of lives during the Chechen conflict.

I am meeting Musa in the lobby of a gorgeous hotel in Grozny, where nightly rates are higher than a teacher’s monthly income. I see him park the old minibus he operates as a share taxi right next to a brand new Maybach that delivered an overseas VIP guest.

I heard of Musa totally by accident. I had just come across an ad published on the Internet saying this particular share taxi gives free rides to all seniors, children, handicapped individuals, people who have no money or accidentally left their purse at home, people riding to attend a funeral or to visit a hospital and those who have completed the Hajj. I asked around to find this share taxi’s driver to write a story about him.

When I found him, he wasn’t willing to give an interview, but his story had already gone viral on the Internet and eventually reached Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s southern Republic of Chechnya. He rewarded Musa with the opportunity to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage.

So, my first question to Musa was: “Have you got your travel passport and visa yet?” I was curious, as it often happens that people get gifts they cannot actually use, and it is not easy for Chechen residents to get travel passports for trips abroad.

Musa submitted all the paperwork to the authorities, and he's not speculating whether or not his passport will be ready in time, although he’s been dreaming of undertaking the Hajj for 20 years.

“My first attempt at the Hajj was back in 1993,” he says. “The travel agency just didn’t get the timing right, the borders were already being shut down at the time.”

Musa hasn’t always been a share taxi driver. He spent 17 years of his life in Russia’s Penza Region, where he had a career building railways. Penza is also where he married a Chechen national and raised two of his sons. As the Soviet Union collapsed, Musa returned to Chechnya.

[link to rt.com]
The Bulgarian  (OP)

User ID: 13376305
Bulgaria
10/02/2012 02:01 PM
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