08/31/2005, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Beslan: amid the official clamour, families fast in silence

Beslan (AsiaNews) – From September 1 to 3 relatives of the victims of the siege of School Nº1 would like to pray and remember their dead in silence . . . but it might not be possible. Since mid-August, hotels in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz are full. Officially, about 200 Russian and foreign journalists have come to cover the commemorative events. The Omon Ra, Russia's special police, is deploying some 1,500 officers in Beslan.

Despite a wish to mourn by themselves, families and relatives of the victims will have to put up with the many events organised by North Ossetian authorities to commemorate the tragic anniversary.

Tomorrow, at 9 am, the ceremonies will begin with the laying of flowers at the school. The government is authorising "anyone who wants to go inside the school to light a candle in the gym to do so".

They will join the many water bottles and flowers family members brought in the past year in memory of the victims who, survivors recall, suffered the most from the lack of water.

Cars will be banned in the small town to avoid traffic jams; instead, special shuttle buses will be used to take people to and fro the school and the cemetery.

As the Orthodox Bishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz requested, on September 3, after the bells toll, the names of all the dead will be read out, followed by a minute of silence and a solemn mass in the ruins that were once the school.

The day's events will conclude with the official opening of the Beslan Memorial Cemetery where a just-finished bronze statue called the "Tree of Sorrow" will be unveiled. It represents four weeping women from whom a tree rises, their branch-like hands reaching out towards the heavens where angelic children fly.

The work of art symbolises the great sorrow, the world's solidarity with Beslan and the eternal memory of the all the innocent who died.

The Mothers of Beslan Committee will commemorate the anniversary far from the clamour of the official ceremonies. The women said they plan to spend two nights and three days in the ruins of the gym without food or drink "as our dead children did".

During the hostage taking incident, the captors refused the authorities' request to provide food and water to the hostages.

Many will follow Ossetian funeral rites which demand that all relatives take part. Mairbek Tuaev, who lost a son in the siege, said that "relatives from near and far will come to pay their respect to the family and express, as tradition demands, their solidarity". (MA)

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