All posts by Joanna Paraszczuk

Был ли Абу Ибрахим Шишани “другом Масхадова”? / Was Abu Ibrahim Shishani a “friend of Maskhadov”?

Не знаю почему, но мне очень нравится узнавать* настоящие личности боевиков ИГИШ (организация запрещена в РФ и в Великобритании).

На этой неделе, узнала, что старый рыжебородый Абу Ибрахим Шишани, который появлялся в нескольких видео ИГ, на самом деле Алхазур Мовлидович Дасаев, р. 1969. Continue reading Был ли Абу Ибрахим Шишани “другом Масхадова”? / Was Abu Ibrahim Shishani a “friend of Maskhadov”?

Абу Умар Грозный (Мохьмед) убит в Ракке Chechen IS Amir Abu Umar Grozny Killed Near Raqqa

English after Russian.

Известный чеченский амир/боевик ИГ (организация запрещена в РФ) Абу Умар Грозный, (ака Магомед/Мохьмед Диресов) умер где-то в Ракке, кажется, в начале октября 2017 г. До тех пор не было официального объявления о его смерти, но теперь я думаю, что я могу написать с уверенностью, что его уже нет в живых. Continue reading Абу Умар Грозный (Мохьмед) убит в Ракке Chechen IS Amir Abu Umar Grozny Killed Near Raqqa

Muslim Shishani: ‘I was never a terrorist & I’ve always hated terrorists’

Muslim Shishani, the amir of the Latakia/Idlib-based jamaat Junud al-Sham, has given a long multi-part interview to the Russian-speaking pro-Islamist independent media activist Muhammad Jazira. Below  is a partial translation of his answer to the question of what he thinks about the fact he has been labeled a “terrorist.” His answer is very similar to that of other Russian-speaking fighters in Syria (I am not talking about IS, the group that is banned in Russia).

Here’s my usual disclaimer.

Continue reading Muslim Shishani: ‘I was never a terrorist & I’ve always hated terrorists’

Imarat Kavkaz fighter Askhat Koybaev killed in Abu Dali, Hama

Imarat Kavkaz fighter Askhat Koybaev (alias Usama KBK) has been reported killed fighting in the HTS-led offensive at Abu Dali village in Hama province. Koybaev was a member of the “Dagestani Imarat Kavkaz” i.e. the group led by Salakhuddin Gimrinsky (there is another, rebel, Imarat Kavkaz). This is a small group that is fighting alongside Jaish Muhajireen wal-Ansar* (part of HTS, and which now once again also contains some former IK fighters). Continue reading Imarat Kavkaz fighter Askhat Koybaev killed in Abu Dali, Hama

Ajnad al-Kavkaz suspend military operations, citing “events in and around Syria”

Idlib-based jamaat Ajnad al-Kavkaz issued a statement on 1 October announcing that they were suspending military operations “until other groups determine their strategy in the Syrian jihad.” Continue reading Ajnad al-Kavkaz suspend military operations, citing “events in and around Syria”

“No Further Action” In Investigation Into ‘JMA Medic’ Prison Death

A source close to the family of Ruslan Sayfutdinov, the 24-year-old Tyumen man convicted of fighting alongside Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar in Syria, who died in prison on 7 January, has said that the family have been informed that no action will be taken over his death. Sayfutdinov’s family and rights defenders say they will continue to work within the system to find out the truth.

Sayfutdinov, a former medical student at the Tyumen Medical Academy, died in prison just 11 days before he was due for release on 18 January. Human rights defenders claimed that there were signs of torture on Sayfutdinov’s body and that doctors had not given him the help he needed.

After his death, Sayfutdinov’s mother said that her son had told her that he had been subjected to torture in the Correctional Facility No. 1 in Kurgan Oblast and that employees of the facility had told her son repeatedly since November 2016 that he would not leave the facility alive, since “our country does not need such people.” Rumiya also claimed that for several weeks her son had not been able to eat, and that every time he tried to eat he vomited.

On 9 January, Znak reported that the Kurgan Prosecutor’s Office for the Monitoring of Laws in Regional Correctional Facilities had begun an investigation into the Sayfutdinov’s death in the intensive care unit of the Treatment and Correctional Facility No. 3 of the regional Federal Penitentiary Service in Kurgan. (The facility has been dubbed the “Kurgan Auschwitz” by locals.) According to Znak, an assessment was to be made of the measures that had been taken to provide Sayfutdinov with medical help, and if any violations were found, then measures would be taken by the prosecutor.

But the source close to Sayfutdinov’s family told me on 22 September that a family member had travelled to Kurgan in August and met with the person investigating the case, who informed them that no action would be taken

“For four hours, he proved to [the family member] that 1. they examined and treated [Sayfutdinov] a great deal and very well; 2. that they spent a lot of resources on him; 3. the death was sudden (while in the conclusion, [they wrote] it had been a progressive condition; 4. Well, you’re not going to bring [Sayfutdinov] back, so write that you agree with the examination results. Without waiting for the results of the examination, ‘we can assume what they will be’,” the source close to Sayfutdinov’s family said.

“They informed [the family member] that there would not be a trial,” the source added.

Rights defender Gabdulla Isakaev told me on 29 September that Sayfutdinov’s family would not give up their fight to find out the circumstances of the 24-year-old’s death.

“Ruslan’s mother and I have agreed that we will attempt to go through every authority to to establish all the circumstances and the level of responsibility of the authorities in the young man’s death,” Isakaev said.

Sayfutdinov had been imprisoned on 21 April 2015 after being found guilty under Article 359 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation (Mercenarism).

Specifically, Sayfutdinov was found guilty of fighting alongside Jaish Muhajireen wal Ansar in Syria from July through December 2013. In December 2013, Sayfutdinov returned to Tyumen, where the local FSB began to investigate him. He was indicted in February 2014.

A medic, not a fighter?

The state alleged that Sayfutdinov had illegally crossed the Turkey-Syria border after traveling to Turkey as a tourist. According to the indictment, he joined JMA and from July to December 2013 actively participated in military action in the Syrian Arab Republic as part of an anti-government force, for which he regularly received remuneration in U.S. dollars.

Also according to the indictment, Sayfutdinov swore bay’ah to the amir of JMA (the indictment has redacted the name of the amir, but at that time it would have been Umar Shishani) and then underwent a month of physical, military and tactical training in a training camp. At the camp, Sayfutdinov underwent firearms training, training in how to undertake guard duty and how to carry out military actions, and received the specialty of “assault trooper.” The indictment alleged that Sayfutdinov had then undertaken guard duties and ribats.

The indictment has (as is standard in Russian criminal cases of this type) redacted key details such as names, dates and locations of the activities that Sayfutdinov allegedly undertook, which is not only extremely frustrating as it makes it difficult for me to assess whether the allegations are accurate. (I am trying to obtain these details).

In his trial, Sayfutdinov maintained that he had not fought but had gone to Syria to provide medical assistance to victims of the war. Apart from this detail, there is no information of his cross examination or anything relating to his defense at all so it is impossible for me to comment on the state’s allegations, or Sayfutdinov’s defense. It is not clear whether his defense rested on the claim that he provided medical assistance to civilians or within JMA as a battlefield medic. (It is entirely possible for someone to have joined JMA to provide medical assistance.)

In any case, under Russian law, the line of defense that Sayfutdinov went to Syria as a medic rather than a fighter makes little difference — if Sayfutdinov was part of Jaish Muhajireen wal Ansar, then from a criminal law perspective it does not matter whether he fought on the battlefield, provided medical assistance or helped in any other way. The key issue is that he was allegedly part of an illegal armed group.


According to the Park72 website, ( Sayfutdinov was born in the village of Proletarovka in Orenburg Oblast, (,+Orenburg+Oblast,+Russia,+461870/@53.6047006,53.0878252,10z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x4163be12e6a07d9d:0x4f15e045f56f03ed!8m2!3d53.6047519!4d53.3678878) and lived for a time in Vyngapurovsky in the Yamalo-Nemets Autonomous Okrug, where he graduated high school. He then studied in the Tyumen Medical Academy, but in his third year he reportedly began to study Salafist Islam and left Tyumen in 2012 for the Dagestan where he studied at an Islamic school.

I Am Left Alone, Drowning In Tears: Russian-language Women’s Jihadi Poetry

One aspect of jihad in general and the war in Syria in particular that is relatively little explored is the pain, worry and grief experienced by the families of those who go to fight or be part of the conflict in other ways (these are not always men, as this case shows). While I have been aware of this as a background issue , in the past weeks, I have been forced to think more about this, for various reasons, some of which I have published on this blog, others I have not (i.e. cannot). As I explained to someone earlier this week, when people write about jihadis, they miss the stories of mothers waiting at home, hoping that their sons are still alive, and unable to get news of them. Many if not most of these family members are not part of the jihadi world, but they have been forced to confront its harshest realities — i.e. the loss of their loved ones (which in the case of Syria also means the loss of the wives and children of the jihadis).

But this is an issue that is explored in Russian-language jihadi culture in various ways, including through poems and essays, sometimes written by the jihadis themselves but also by mothers, wives and family members left behind. These poems are a subset of women’s jihadi culture within the Russian-speaking jihadosphere*. This genre did not emerge with the Syrian conflict — there are poems dating back to the Chechen wars, for example. Some of the poems are original and others are plagiarized from existing works, but the authors change some of the words to include references to mujahideen.

I have collected quite a few poems of this genre, and I’ve posted a couple of them, with rough translations, below to give you a flavor of these. Many of the poems mix feelings of sadness and fear with “correct” expressions of how a mother or wife of a mujahid should think and feel (this is a constant conflict in other expressions of Russian-language jihadi culture on martyrdom/death in battle).

NB the featured image for this post is of IS militant Mukhammad Abu Barud Dagestani as a child, posted by his wife after his death in 2015.  Continue reading I Am Left Alone, Drowning In Tears: Russian-language Women’s Jihadi Poetry

“Clash of Civilizations” – Muslim Shishani criticizes Western imperialism, Capitalism

In an essay for the Nohchicho website on 13 September, Muslim Shishani has criticized Western imperialism through the ages and argues that the West has committed horrific and bloody atrocities in the name of liberating countries, including in Syria, though he does not talk about Syria directly. Muslim also criticizes Western capitalism and liberalism.

I’ve translated, on the fly, his essay below. Continue reading “Clash of Civilizations” – Muslim Shishani criticizes Western imperialism, Capitalism

UPDATE Al Bara Pankisi, his wife & children confirmed alive in Syria

Update as of 16 September — Al Bara has been confirmed alive, as are his wife and children.


Another update, as of 5 p.m. BST on 2 September — it seems like Al Bara’s family in Pankisi are not 100% sure whether he is actually alive or not, since they only received one message that is definitely him but after that nothing.

They wanted to believe in the best possible outcome — some of them still believe in it. But others seem not so sure.


I don’t like updating posts because it is confusing for readers. Usually I would  make a new post. But in this case I will update this one,  not only because I want to report correct information but because it’s a good way to illustrate how confusing information from Syria is.

I reported, based on sources (social media and sources in Georgia) that Al Bara Pankisi, a Kist (ethnic Chechen) from the Pankisi Gorge in Syria, had been reported killed in Syria along with his pregnant wife and two children.  You can read my original post below. Al Bara was reported killed alongside his wife and two children when a car they were travelling in was shot at. The reason the news got out is because someone in Syria contacted Al Bara’s friends/relatives in Georgia and reported that it was him in the car. But last night his friends reported that they managed to talk to Al Bara and he and his family are alive and well. No one knows who was in the car, or whether it was a Chechen family or not.

So yes, Syria is a war zone and details of what is happening are often hard to verify, particularly when it comes to deaths. In this case, someone’s relatives and friends were led to believe that someone had been killed. Apart from the stress  of having a relative or friend in Syria, imagine what the past few days must have felt like for the relatives and friends of Al Bara!

Continue reading UPDATE Al Bara Pankisi, his wife & children confirmed alive in Syria

Сестра Эльвиры Караевой, карачаевка которую казнили ИГ в Сирии — ищет информацию о судьбах двух детей Эльвиры

The sister of Elvira Karayeva, the Karachay woman executed by IS in Syria in 2016, desperately seeking information on the whereabouts of Elvira’s 2 children.

English follows Russian:

Сестра Эльвиры Караевой — карачаевка, которую казнили по приговору ИГ в Сирии в феврале 2016г — отчаянно ищет информацию о судьбах двух детей Эльвиры. Альбина Караева даже не знает, живы ли дети или нет.  Continue reading Сестра Эльвиры Караевой, карачаевка которую казнили ИГ в Сирии — ищет информацию о судьбах двух детей Эльвиры