Friday, March 27, 2009

الجهاد، الحرب المُقدَسَّة، و الشهادة في شيشان (Jihād, Sanctified War, and Martyrdom in Chechnya)

فنّ الشَهيد وَ المجاهد

This is Part III of my "preview" series about my current research project, tentatively titled "The Art of the Martyr & Mujahid," about martyrdom, resistance, and in the case of some groups terrorism (defined as intentional targeting of civilians, or wanton disregard for civilian casualties, committed by non-state and state actors). The theme is "Sanctified War in Chechnya."

Roadside bomb used to destroy a Russian Army armored vehicle

Images taken from the web site of the KavKaz Center, a Chechen web site sympathetic to the jihadi elements of the Chechen resistance movement.

Below (in marigold) is a slightly modified mission statement from a Facebook group I founded years ago dedicated to covering, or providing a forum, for the discussion of Chechen rights and their abuse by the occupying Russian forces. Special thanks to my friend and colleague Bilal for helping me with the translation of the text in the first poster, and particularly for pointing out aspects of Arabic poetry, such as the flexibility of the form of the last word with regard to meter, a subject unfortunately quite unknown to me.






Since being colonized in the eighteenth century by the Russians, Chechens have suffered under a systematic campaign of discrimination and were forced to deny their cultural identity. Resistance to Russian imperialism began early by the mid-18th century and continued throughout the 19th under heroic Chechen leaders such as Imam Shamil. Under the rule of the Russian-dominated Soviet Union Chechens who resisted were arrested, tortured, and either deported or murdered. During the rule of Joseph Stalin, the Chechens were forbidden from speaking their own language and a campaign of Russification began.

In 1994 Russia invaded Chechnya in order to crush a growing independence movement. During the two-year-long conflict, Russia destroyed vast swaths of the country, leveled the capital city of Grozny, and killed tens of thousands of Chechen civilians. Hundreds of thousands of others were forced to flee Russian forces. After suffering an embarassing stalemate despite their technological and military superiority the Russians were forced to withdraw.

Claiming that they were acting against Chechen terrorists, Russia invaded Chechnya again in 1999 on the orders of President Vladimir Putin. Russian forces remain there to this day and have managed to set up a puppet regime. Russian forces in Chechnya have committed horrible atrocities including murders of civilians, summary executions without any legal recourse for suspected dissidents, rapes, and torture. Russian forces have also kidnapped Chechens for interrogation, which often includes torture, and have robbed civilians of their property.

Certain Chechen groups, particularly those influenced and supported by foreign elements who have attempted to erase Chechnya's history of Sufi Islamic mysticism, have committed atrocities as well. Crimes such as Beslan, the Moscow Theater, and other similar attacks on civilians carried out by loyalists of individuals such as Shamil Basayev are strongly and unconditionally condemned. There is no justification for such actions. Attempts to erase the historical and cultural connections of many Chechens to Sufi Islamic mysticism despite erroneous claims that it is "un-Islamic" are also strongly condemned. The first great Chechen resistance leader, in the 19th century, was the brave Naqshbandi Sufi leader Imam Shamil.

However, as even the U.S. Department of State recognizes, not all Chechen separatist groups are involved in terrorism and some are legitimately fighting for Chechen rights against an increasingly (re)Imperialist Russia and its Chechen puppets.

While the world's attention is focused on Palestine and Lebanon, the suffering of the Chechen people is often forgotten.

You may join the Facebook group HERE.

Read Amnesty International's brief about human rights abuses in Chechnya HERE.

For scholarly studies and a journalistic account of the Chechen conflict, see HERE , HERE, and HERE.

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