“Caucasus Emirate” – where is the beef?

The recent debate over the “Caucasus Emirate” has been very confusing for most people monitoring the situation in Chechnya

We have read declarations signed by many prominent persons, there have been a lot of rumors and accusations published by various web sites, and the leadership of President Umarov has not only been questioned but also denied by high officials.

Still we lack one ingredient of intellectual debate – despite wordy statements we have got hardly any evidence or proofs testifying accusations of abuse of power. The Constitution of ChRI has been a weapon in the debate, but nobody seems to define what articles have been violated or what articles would justify their own planned actions. To some extent it looks like a number of Mischief Makers has captured the stage, showing us a theatrical performance with quite few artistic merits.

Maybe it’s time to search and unearth the facts, and base our opinions upon such findings? This present conflict tends to split the Resistance with tragic consequences for the people of Chechnya and sorrow among the true friends of the Chechens. United we stand, divided we fall -becoming a tool of the enemy’s divide and conquer tactics is a fatal mistake.

“Proclamation of Caucasus Emirate”

The President is the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. His official decisions are published as decrees, as we all know. These presidential decrees are published publicly; they are dated and numbered, signed and provided with stamp. As these decrees are publicly published in official media channels, there are never any doubts about the validity and authenticity of the decree.

Regarding “Caucasus Emirate”, we have not seen any official decree in public – the basic fact is that there has been no “Emirate declaration” by President Umarov yet. Those who tend to make hasty actions should carefully consider this fact.

So far, we have no more than a text published 29.10.2007 on the minor web site chechenews.com, which alleges that they received the proclamation anonymously by e-mail! This web site is not the channel where Umarov’s decisions and orders are published for the public. Further, the text was said to be written by Movladi Udugov. It’s not very credible that Udugov would give world premiere to his texts on that obscure web site. I’m sure we all agree that he has much better media in his proposal.

The Chechen service of the U.S. financed Radio Marsho (Radio Liberty) broadcasted an excerpt of a video tape of President Umarov 30.10.2007. Again – the radio station had received the tape anonymously by mail! The recording is said to be done somewhere in the forests 7.10.2007. We don’t know the full context of this speech, which makes an analyze impossible. Only small fragments of Umarov’s speak in Russian language was heard, the program includes mostly inexact translations of the speech and the reporter’s commentaries in a mix. One essential thing – Umarov did not speak about Al-Quaida, he did not abolish the statehood of ChRI and he did not mention the word Emirate or Caliphate at all. He did express sympathy with Moslems in other occupied countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Palestine). Such expressions of sympathy we can hear on a daily basis also from non-Moslem European liberals, the statements are not more radical than that.

President Umarov did speak about Sharia and Jihad. Let’s remind ourselves, that Sharia is a part of the Chechen Constitution, and describing the Caucasian fight for independence in terms of Jihad or Gazavat has been common in centuries, as can be seen already from Tolstoy’s novels from the Caucasian War.

It should be apparent for all people, that the President of ChRI never uses Radio Marsho as the official channel of publishing his orders or decrees. When we today read harsh statements against Umarov and the “Caucasus Emirate” it should be kept in mind that the argumentation is directed towards a mix of anonymous e-mails, a radio reporters commentaries and one sentence long excerpts from some speech. There is no real beef in this hamburger, so far.

Anybody is free to speculate how this situation has erupted. Who might be sending anonymous e-mails and video recordings, and what is the purpose of such actions? Who lacks loyalty to the leadership of ChRI to such extent, that they want to link President Umarov to Al-Quaida, allege him for starting a world-wide jihad against the world et cetera? Who has interests in creating stories that President Umarov has declared not only an Emirate in North Caucasus, but he want to extend it also to Transcaucasus? An obvious answer is the divide et impera tacticians of FSB, but some people are helping the putinists quite a lot.

Chechenpress knows exactly how presidential decrees are distributed. Still the agency publishes articles under headline “Doku Umarov proclaimed Caucasian Emirate” with references to some odd Al-Quaida influence in the Resistance. This does not make sense at all, without diving deep into conspiracy theories and similar speculations. The web site of the Chechen MFA should have other objectives than making serious harm to the Head of the State, I suppose.

Zakayev’s actions

We can’t discuss the media turbulence regarding “Caucasus Emirate” without scrutinizing the actions of Ahmed Zakayev, who has published a number of statements during the last two weeks.

Zakayev use repeatedly about himself the epithet “the government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria” which sounds a bit strange. The President is the Head of State and highest executive officer. The highest authority of the State is the defense committee Majlis-al-Shura. The huge majority of the Ministers live in Chechnya. These are the bodies that we all have regarded as the legal bodies of ChRI. Zakayev is not even speaking for all of the 4-5 Ministers and Deputy Ministers residing in Europe, so how is it possible that he has promoted himself to the position of Government?

Zakayev’s position and legal status as Minister of Foreign Affairs is based upon a decree of President Umarov. Zakayev must have misunderstood the concept of chain of command, when he suddenly finds himself in a higher position than his superior. In his latest statement, Zakayev tells that he can no longer represent Doku Umarov, and urges other officials henceforth give their allegiance directly to Parliament. Isn’t this action an unhidden attempt to seizure of power, coup d’état?

Zakayev explains his actions with a wish to preserve the Constitution. A person with a good memory, although, remembers Zakayev’s Manifesto in June 2006, which stated that the Constitution (i.e. legal status of ChRI) may be negotiated with the Russians.

In the present situation Zakayev urges the government and armed forces of ChRI to be directly subordinate to the Parliament. This is a strange and very unconstitutional view! How do Zakayev think it’s possible to protect a constitution by violating this constitution?

Article 71 of the Chechen constitution clearly condemns Zakayev’s aims to be illegal: “Other elections or nomination to a post, and equally allotting the authorities of the President of the republic are illegal and void.” Article 74 tells the procedure how the President can be relieved from the post – no such procedure has been seen, and such also seems to be impossible. According to article 74, “the decision about relieve of the President of Chechen Republic of the post is considered as made if not less than two-thirds of votes of common number of the members of Parliament voted“.

Unfortunately, the Parliament is not a working governmental body today. The Parliament elected 1997 had more than 40 members. Half of them have passed over to the side of the occupiers and some 10 have died. No more than some 10 persons are still able to independent work for ChRI. This means that even Kadyrov could arrange a bigger ChRI parliamentarian meeting than the Chairman of the Parliament is able to!

If the President really would be relieved of the post, then the Vice-president becomes the President. The third in range is the Chief of the High Sharia Court. The Constitution admits no rights for the Parliament to overtake the authority of the President.

Further, in July 2002 the Great Majlis Shura under the leadership of President Maskhadov made some amendments to the Constitution, much of which were motivated by the exceptional circumstances during wartime. According to this Constitution, respected by all so far, the highest authority of ChRI is now the Majlis-al-Shura.

Does Zakayev really suggest, that a handful of parliamentarians, less than a forth of the elected number, should seize the power in ChRI. Such action would comprise very serious infringements upon the Constitution. The legacy of such a government would hardly be accepted by any serious party, least of all by the international community.

I suggest that Zakayev et consortes should carefully read their own statement 30.10.2007, which states: “Any infringement of the CRI constitutional order should be viewed as the gravest crime against the Chechen state and its heroic people.”

A Russian plot?

The arguments, that there would be some kind of FSB plot behind actions of Umarov are quite weird. There are “reliable sources” telling that FSB would have paid 500 million dollar (!) to organize this plot! The credibility of this argument is on zero level. In plain text it means that Udugov got 500 million on his bank account in order to convince Umarov to make a declaration?

It sounds like rubbish.

Here we can witness some harsh attempts to smear and defame persons who are working within the Chechen authorities. Especially Movladi Udugov is in the firing line. Udugov has been demonized by the Russians due to his splendid work as Minister of Information during the first Russian war against Chechnya. It was a propaganda war which the Russians lost, as they had to admit themselves. Without Udugov’s achievements, there might never have been any Khasavyurt agreement.

Repeating Russian antagonism against Udugov seems a bit ill-considered. Russian propaganda is not a trustworthy source of knowledge; we don’t believe either that Maskhadov or Zakayev are terrorists, do we? People interested in Udugov’s political thinking should preferably read his study “Security in Exchange for Independence” (to be found on kavkazcentrer.com web page).

Not only Udugov and Umarov are criticized in the present discussion. Astonishingly, a recent statement told us that “the ‘North Caucasus Emirate’ is to play a similar provocative role as that of the Chechen and Dagestan Peoples Congress which had paved the way for the second Russian intervention in Chechnya. The same people who had taken part in the founding of the Congress have been involved in the preparation of the ‘Emirate’ operation.”

The first signature of this declaration is Ilias Musaev – one of the members of the working committee of this Peoples Congress! But Musaev was not in any bad companion when he worked for this Peoples Congress -on the establishing meeting of the Congress took part also the Chechen Presidents Yandarbiev, Maskhadov and Sadulaev and Vice-presidents Arsanov, Basaev and Abdullaev! Sadukaev and Abdulaev made both big jobs for this Congress.

Does Zakayev really mean that all these honorable men “paved way for the second Russian intervention in Chechnya”? It’s really a strange new history writing we are witnessing! I think that Chechens shouldn’t undeservedly victimize themselves in this matter. The war started due to illegal Russian aggression. The war in Dagestan in August 1999, as well as the Russian apartment bombings a couple of weeks later did not initiate the Second war against Chechnya! Prime Minister Stepashkin has admitted that the final decision to invade was taken already in the spring that year, what happened thereafter did not affect their plans at all.

There has been proposed many other ungrounded arguments in this present discussion. It has been stated that a possible (yet to be seen) declaration of “Caucasus Emirate” would motivate Putin to send more troops to Caucasus and suppress the people of Caucasus even more than before. I don’t think Putin has that kind of restrictions in his policy – he will send more soldiers to Caucasus regardless of such sophisticated argumentation. He does not need to argue, just watch his activities in the past.

Another line of arguments is that a “Caucasus Emirate” would make the Chechens loose support in the Western community. Also, the situation of refugees would be worsened. What support the Chechens have today, which could become in danger? In Europe, there are a number of good working non-governmental human rights organizations and a handful of parliamentarians – on the governmental level Europe has allowed the genocide of Chechens to happen without noticeable actions of protest. The refugee issue is handled in all European countries on a humanitarian and individual level, the idea of some kind of collective punishment does not belong to the real life.

The idea of a “Caucasus Emirate”

As stated above, there has been no declaration of a “Caucasus Emirate”. However, this is an interesting issue, which should be discussed.

Many of the late Chechen Presidents have supported widening the war outside the borders of Chechnya and opening new fronts. As a military strategy this is a well-grounded strategy, following the framework of both von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu.

The Chechens have during centuries been the avant garde in resisting the colonization in Caucasus. That is the situation today as well. When the Chechens are defeated, it means bad times for all other Caucasian peoples. Thus, the Circassian Genocide took part not before the defeat of Imam Shamil, when Russia had available forces to put also that people to death.

The Chechens are not fighting alone today; representatives of all other Caucasian peoples also take part in this fight for freedom and independence. Many of these people have also high position in the Resistance. Amir Magas, who is an ethnic Ingush, is the Commander of the Caucasian Front, and recently promoted to top military commander of the ChRI forces. Recently Anzor Astermirov, the leader of the Kabardino-Balkar jamaat, was appointed to the position of the Head of the Sharia Court. If the President and Vice-president of the ChRI should die simultaneously, the leadership post automatically passes to the Chief of the High Sharia Court, which makes Astermirov a figure of importance for the whole region.

In these circumstances, I believe, it is well-grounded to have some organizational framework that motivates also troops from other Caucasian regions. It’s not enough for a Karachay just to fight for the freedom of Chechnya; he wants freedom for Karachai-Cherkessia also. I suppose that President Umarov had such thinking in his mind when he spoke in the beginning of October.

Actually, this is not a new idea that President Umarov (or Udugov) has created. ChRI started to implement its new strategy of exporting the war from Chechnya to the other parts of the North Caucasus already in April 2004, under the leadership of President Maskhadov.

President Sadulaev stated in February 2006 in videos and messages on Chechenpress and Daymokh the new goals of the Resistance. Sadulaev said (citation from Chechnya Weekly):

The peoples of the Caucasus have common history, a common struggle for freedom and independence, a common religion, common ideals and values. It is international practice, and a striking example of that is the unification of Europe. In the future there are plans for the creation of a Majlis Shura of the Caucasus [and] a Shura Alimov of the Caucasus, and for the creation of a confederative state of the type of the European Union.” Attempts by the Kremlin “to portray the natural desire of the peoples of the Caucasus to unite in order to throw off the imperial yoke of Russia as a threat to the whole world are mendacious and futile” Sadulaev added.

I think that gratitude to former Presidents, such as Maskhadov and Sadulaev, should not be written in the same statement as criticism of Umarov, as some people have done lately. President Umarov is just continuing the work of his predecessors, no more no less. And he has made no attempt to change or abolish the Constitution of ChRI.

A suitable end of this writing is a citation of President Sadulaev in February 2006:

Enormous work has been carried out over 15 years in the matter of strengthening freedom and establishing an independent Chechen Islamic State. And this work is being carried out today. Thus today all mujahideen are joined in a single structure, together are waging war on the path of Allah, on the path of building a full-fledged Islamic state. And on that path, the mujahideen, by the grace of Allah, are trying in everything to adhere to Sharia, to adhere to the rules and norms of behavior of Islam…and to strengthen our unity.

And it would be very good if all of our brother and sister muhajirs [refugee, immigrant or emigrant] located outside Nokhchich’o [Chechnya] adhered the same way. But even more important today is to make clear to all muhajirs, to everyone who is not taking active part in combat operations, who are not openly fighting in jihad, [that] the mujahideen have the advantage over the muhajirs. And all muhajirs should know that they are assistants and advisers to the mujahideen, and not their superiors. And if each observes their obligations and knows their place, then we will have mutual understanding, harmony and a speedy victory.

“An Islamic State” – that might sound like radical fundamentalism and wahhabism for people suffering from islamophobia? Well, in that case we have many fundamentalistic movements among major parties in Europe also, as they are demandeing government to be based on Christian values?

Mikael Storsjö

Helsinki, 06.11.2007.

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