PEN International is appalled by the brutal murder of the acclaimed poet Shamil Dzhikayev in North Ossetia last month.

Background Information

The decapitated corpse of Shamil Dzhikayev, aged 71, was found on May 26, 2011, in the outskirts of Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, a Russian republic in the North Caucasus. Four days later, police shot dead his alleged killer, David Murashev, during a gun fight after he had refused to surrender to police. Three officers were injured. Murashev, aged 33, the son of a wealthy businessman who is said to have converted to radical Islam three years earlier, is reported by the Moscow Times to have shouted out that he had murdered the poet for offending his faith before opening fire. A samurai style sword allegedly used to kill the poet was found in his home, alongside a “suicide belt” of explosives and extremist literature. A number of his friends and contacts were also arrested.

It is believed that the motive for killing Dzhikayev, an acclaimed poet and dean of Philology at North Ossetia University, was a poem that he had written in 2008 that harshly criticized Muslim pilgrims for allegedly urinating on a monument to the those who had died in the siege at a school in Beslan in 2004. Beslan is situated approximately 20 km north of Vladikavkaz. Entitled "The Wolf-Cubs Set Forth on the Hajj," the poem used strong language against Muslim pilgrims, and at the time, there were calls that Dzhikayev be prosecuted for inciting inter-religious hatred. The pilgrims in question say that they had alighted at the monument to pray, and not to urinate.

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