Category Archives: Chechens In Syria

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”?

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’

“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.

“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

Translation: Abdulhakim, Salakhuddin & Muslim Shishani Address the Syrian People

On 4 August, Ajnad al-Kavkaz released* a video in Chechen with Russian subtitles featuring the jamaat’s amir Abdulhakim Shishani (read my recent interview with him here), Muslim Shishani (Amir of Junud al-Sham) and Salakhuddin Shishani** (Amir of Jaish Usro). The video is an address to the Syrian people and is a response to the recent and ongoing clashes between HTS and Ahrar al-Sham. I am writing a detailed analysis of the video for Jane’s looking at its significance and responses from various groups, so I will not give any analysis here,  but for fun I just did an on the fly translation of the Russian subtitles (I would have preferred to translate the Chechen but I can still only pick out a few words…).

Continue reading Translation: Abdulhakim, Salakhuddin & Muslim Shishani Address the Syrian People

Эксклюзив: интервью с АбдулХакимом Шишани, Амир Аджнада/ Exclusive: Interview With AbdulHakim Shishani, Amir of Ajnad al-Kavkaz

Below is my interview with AbdulHakim Shishani, the Amir of Ajnad al-Kavkaz. English follows Russian.

As I have written before here and elsewhere, it is my belief that understanding the various foreign fighter groups in Syria is key to a deeper understanding not only of the conflict in that country, but also of other conflicts around the globe, including those in these fighters’ countries of origin. By gathering information over time, we can see how these conflicts are interconnected, and how one affects the other.

By avoiding discussing these questions,  refusing to examine these groups or  understand them, or indeed by oversimplifying them including by making assumptions based on what we would like to be true, or by avoiding knowledge about these groups’ motivations and beliefs, we are harming our ability to make sense of and address important issues that lead to war, conflict and displacement of peoples.  Here is the interview:

JP: Как Вы бы прокомментировали ситуации на Кавказе? Кажется, что ситуация там сильно изменилась с тех пор как Вы там воевали — ИК уж практически нету, амиры джамаатов присягнули ИГИШ итд… Continue reading Эксклюзив: интервью с АбдулХакимом Шишани, Амир Аджнада/ Exclusive: Interview With AbdulHakim Shishani, Amir of Ajnad al-Kavkaz

“A Woman’s View” – essay by a Russian-speaking wife of a jihadi in Latakia

An essay written by a North Caucasian Russian-speaking woman and wife of a Russian-speaking jihadi formerly based in Latakia province in Syria (and not connected in any way with The Islamic State group) was posted on 8 July on the site. As part of my work I collect posts/essays/poems etc by Russian-speaking fighters — almost all of which are written by men. Because this is comparatively unusual I thought I’d quickly translate and share it. We don’t often get a glimpse of the lives of the Russian-speaking women who have accompanied their husbands to Syria — and the overwhelming majority of what has been written is about IS “jihadi brides” or women connected with IS in other ways.  Anyway the original piece has some rather fascinating  photos of the interior of the house that the woman describes, which I have also posted here.

Continue reading “A Woman’s View” – essay by a Russian-speaking wife of a jihadi in Latakia

‘Only the T-shirts are left’ – the Archaeology of Imarat Kavkaz in Syria

Even if I’m not posting publicly, apart from this brief post, I’ve been doing research on IK v Shame & the current situation. But I wanted to share this fantastic photo, which was taken very recently* and is of Imarat Kavkaz’s very first base in Haritan, Aleppo province. Continue reading ‘Only the T-shirts are left’ – the Archaeology of Imarat Kavkaz in Syria

Nohchicho’s Interview with Muslim Shishani

I’m working on something related to Muslim Shishani so as part of my preparation I typed out his interview with the Nohchicho website in English as I read it, & thought I’d post it here for non-Russian speakers. [I actually thought I had posted this about 10 days ago or more but then realized I forgot to hit Publish. It’s been an insanely busy month and I didn’t notice. Sorry!]

Continue reading Nohchicho’s Interview with Muslim Shishani