On 7 January, a VBIED attack was carried out against the base of the Chechen-led independent jamaat Ajnad al-Kavkaz in Idlib. The photos show the extent of the damage. Continue reading PHOTOS: Who carried out a VBIED attack on Ajnad al-Kavkaz’s Idlib base?
I’ve written a longer and more detailed piece for Jane’s on evidence that Russian-speaking jihadis are in Egypt, including with Islamic State in Sinai, but wanted to share a few very brief points here. Continue reading Is Sinai the new Syria? Evidence Russian-speaking fighters left Raqqa & went to Egypt
I’ve written before (and I will again soon — watch this space) about young up-and-coming sportsmen joining IS. Here’s another example. Continue reading From “Kremlin Bear” to ISIS militant – the story of Sherip Daudov
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
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
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!
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…).
There was a lot of interest in the piece I translated here, about a North Caucasian woman’s view of making hijra to Syria along with her husband and others. So I thought I would also do a quick translation of the below piece, which was also written by a Russian-speaking woman in Syria, in which she talks about the issue of educating her children. A few points: Continue reading A Russian-Speaking Mom Writes About Educating Her Kids in Idlib:
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 telegra.ph 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.
Out of interest, I have translated a few personal reactions of Russian-speaking mujahideen (which includes both those who are fighting in jamaats and those who are media activists* in Syria, these do not include any individual in IS nor connected to or supportive of IS) to the talks in Astana. The individuals were not expressing the views of any jamaat or group. Continue reading Some comments from Russian-speaking fighters/media mujahideen on Astana talks