Views of Chechen residents on the declaration of a “Caucasus Emirate”
By Ruslan Isayev
CHECHNYA – The declaration by Chechen resistance leaders of a “Caucasus Emirate” is something that has long been predicted. Some sources had earlier claimed that the guerrillas were fighting to establish a Caliphate from the Caspian to the Black Sea. It can now be said that by a single decision of the Ichkerian President, the cause of Chechen independence has been buried – the cause that initiated a struggle during which the republic has lost hundreds of thousands of people. Now the members of the resistance movement are truly on their own, having cut themselves off from the judicial support of some circles in Europe.
Akhmed Zakayev recently issued a warning that certain forces, working in conjunction with the FSB, were preparing a project named "Caucasus Emirate". He said he was convinced that behind it were the same Chechen figures who created the pretext for the start of the second Chechen war. Now these same forces which, incidentally, Zakayev promised to name, are working together with the Russian special services to lead the Chechen resistance to take steps which will deny them all support throughout the world.
In the current disposition of forces, a Caucasus Emirate would have been declared sooner or later. The nominal post of Ichkerian vice president is occupied by Supyan Abdullayev, a former high school teacher and resident of the village of Khattuni. Abdullayev is a passionate adherent of radical Islam, and it is no coincidence that Khattuni was the home of Chechen Wahhabism. During the first Chechen campaign, this same Abdullayev shared a house in Khattuni with Movladi Udugov – the Ichkerian press and information minister who is presently director of the National Information Service. In the event of the death of Dokka Umarov, the post of Ichkerian president will pass to radicals of Abdullayev’s ilk. If that happens, the radicalization of the Chechen resistance in an ultra-hardline direction – involving unquestioning self-sacrifice and no compromise with the enemy – will be a foregone conclusion.
How are ordinary Chechen residents reacting to the declaration of an Emirate? People’s views differ, but most believe that the spirit of radicalism is not part of the Chechen character, and that Chechens are subject to outside influences mainly because they tend to be naive and gullible, and therefore easily taken advantage of.
Ruslan (46), political scientist, journalist, Grozny: “The declaration of a Caucasus Emirate with Dokka Umarov at its head is a result of the separatists’ total radicalization. By the way, the word ‘separatist’ just slipped off my tongue. From now on they won’t be called that any more. It may be that the preaching of radical Islam will help them in this war more than all the holy Sufi saints and sheikhs who are thought to be traditionalists. I think that the declaration will benefit Russia, of course. Everyone knows that the guerrillas are doomed, and that there will be no Emirate, but by taking this step they are cutting themselves off from their last source of help – the support of ordinary people. On the other hand, I think that the guerrillas will receive an increased level of financial aid from the Arab countries. It may be that those sponsors have set certain conditions on the aid, and that they expect the guerrillas to declare goals that are more ambitious than the mere liberation of Ichkeria. I anticipate that we shall soon see another escalation of tension in Chechnya and the other republics of the North Caucasus."
Movladi (33), unemployed, amnestied guerrilla, Gudermes: "I can’t help secretly envying the guerrillas and I pray Allah to help them. What does it matter what the Emirate will be like? What is needed in Chechnya and all over the Caucasus is Shariah law. What relation does Russia have to the peoples of the Caucasus? None at all. Russia merely took us over at various times in history. Now it’s time for us to take back what was stolen. I don’t agree with the part about declaring jihad on America and Britain. There are many righteous Muslims living there – let them do it. To put it briefly – it’s a thankless and unnecessary act to declare jihad on other states. God created human beings the way they are. So I don’t think we are right in this. Every Muslim should do his own Jihad in his own country. The guerrillas should concentrate on liberating their own land."
Zakre Neserkhoyev (49), minibus driver, Grozny: "I don’t have much time for politics, but I do have my own view on this. Why do we need to create a Emirate? I don’t even like the name. There shouldn’t be any Emirate. The best thing they could do for the Chechens and Muslims is to stop their resistance and accept their defeat. But I know how stubborn they are. My son also fell under their influence and he nearly went off to fight in the war. It was all I could do to talk him out of it. Now he’s married and has children of his own. He’s out of the country. Now I’m not worried about him, or about my grandson, any more, as I think they’re safe. But there are an awful lot of sons whose parents have not been able to re-educate them, and who are running about the mountains making a misery of their own lives and the lives of others."
Ilyas (24), mutalim (student at Islamic school), Grozny: "What is so bad about us being adherents of traditional Islam and following the precepts of our Sufi saints? The Wahhabis don’t consider them authorities. But most Chechens and Ingushes follow the holy Kunta-Khadzhi, who called for humility and kindness. These ideas about a world Jihad and an Emirate are obsolete now. Chechens will never support them. We mustn’t forget our adats (customary law), which don’t run counter to Islam."
Zulikhan Bagayeva (22), female student at Grozny University: "I don’t really know what it’s all about, but I do know that it’s better to stay far away from politics. We need to study and study. Then no one will be able to take advantage of us for bad ends. That’s what my father always says. He’s the only authority I follow."
Elbrus (39), writer, Shalinsky district: "It’s a rejection of all the world’s values and a declaration of war on all the world. That’s how I interpret this declaration of an Emirate. I don’t think the guerrillas fully understand the implications of this, especially for themselves. Perhaps they’ll get more aid from their foreign sponsors, but they’ll be rejected by the people. A spirit of provocation is not something that is part of our character, and this, I am certain, is a pure provocation. The peoples of the Caucasus have always been distinguished by wisdom in their decisions and actions, and whenever it looked as though something might cause harm to others, they didn’t do it, even when it went against their own interests. There’s some gang – we can call them bandits now – running around the mountains declaring an Emirate. Makes you laugh, doesn’t it? Eh? "
Ilyas Almurzayev (40), unemployed construction worker, Grozny: "We should have waited until Russia itself had collapsed. In fact, many intelligent people say that it will collapse sooner or later, and then we could be an independent republic. Yet now there’s some demagoguery going around again. I too can declare myself Sultan of Brunei, but does that mean that I turn into him? It’s just a lot of nonsense. One shouldn’t pay any attention to it. We’re happy with the secular republic which Dudayev proclaimed in his day. Our nation will survive all presidents and emirs. And after that let history judge who was right and who was wrong."
(Translation by DM)
(D/T) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Dokka Umarov: A Hawk Flies to the Ichkerian Throne (PW, 20.6.2006)