We have translated an interview, conducted earlier this month, with a Russian-speaking Chechen fighter in Syria.
The fighter, named as Abu Issa, talks about the Free Syrian Army and the problems the Mujahideen face. He advises Russian-speaking jihadists thinking of a fight in Syria to go to the Caucasus instead: “Those who have come to Syria should stop wasting time on the internet and learn Arabic and Islam.”
Q: First of all, try to tell us about yourself, to give readers some information about yourself while not giving the enemy anything that could help to ID you.
Abu Isa: Like many of my peers, I came to Islam by the grace of Allah after the First Chechen War. When the second war started, I tried to join up with the Mujahideen. Since the summer of 2000, I took part in the Jihad in Chechnya and Ingushetia in various jamaats [armed groups].
Then it so happened that I had to go abroad. After that I was in the kafirs’ [derogatory term meaning “unbeliever”] “wanted” list. I tried to find my way home, and I helped the Mujahideen however I could. When the opportunity arose, went to Syria.
I guess that’s all.
Q: How do you rate the overall military situation in Syria?
Abu Isa: Right now, the overall military situation is positive, Sharia Law has been introduced on the areas that have been conquered. [The Mujahideen] are starting to produce their own weapons. There’s military equipment and Mujahideen to assault heavily fortified military installations.
At the same time, the enemy, that is Assad’s army, is demoralized and does not want to fight, despite strong support from Russia, Iran, and China. Assad’s army has a policy of intimidation, so that the rank-and-file go to fight. Only mercenaries from Iran and Lebanon agree to fight, and even then for a lot of money. The Assadites are steadily losing ground, so, unfortunately, at times we see the enemy taking out their anger on helpless civilians, and carrying out massacres in totally peaceful villages.
On the other hand, it would be wrong to assume that the Assad regime has lost the ability to fight back. As I said, the support that Assad has including direct military aid, soldiers and weapons, comes from large states, while the Mujahideen are volunteers acting because of their enthusiasm, without the support of any state, and moreover, they are wanted in many countries around the world.
Q: What are the biggest problems that the Mujahideen in Syria face?
Abu Isa: I can’t tell you all of the problems, of course, for obvious reasons.
One of the main problems of the Mujahideen in Syria, just like in other parts of the world, is the weak financial situation and lack of adequate weapons. After all, the Mujahideen aren’t just standing against the Assad regime, but several allied states such as China, Russia, Iran, and Lebanon. And the small arms you can buy in the markets cost a lot money, compared to other countries where Jihad is being waged.
There aren’t enough trained Mujahideen, especially commanders. The issue of training has to be dealt with on the spot.
Another important problem is the lack of hospitals with special equipment, all that we have is basically first aid.
There is also a problem with religious education, or rather self-education. Quite often, the study of religion, and the Arabic language, gets neglected, because some brothers spend a lot of time on useless chatting on the Internet, which is clearly not good for Iman. They don’t have enough patience to strengthen [their faith] on their own, which is important when you’re waging Jihad.
Q: What about the attitude of the [Syrian] population?
Abu Isa: The population behaves positively toward the Mujahideen, that’s noticeable on the streets and in the markets. When you travel through a village, kids and young people say hello and shouting Takbir. In markets often people give stuff for free. Youth in every village are joining the ranks of the Mujahideen. There isn’t a psychological barrier between ordinary people and the Mujahideen. And, of course, just talking with the people allows us to figure out how much they support the Mujahideen.
Q: And what do you think should be the policy of the Mujahideen vis-a-vis the people?
Abu Isa: I think that the policy regarding the Syrian people must take into account what the situation has been here for many years, during which time the people have been under the yoke of infidels, and, of course, much religion has been forgotten. This should always be taken into account when establishing the laws of Allah in the area. You can’t impose on a people who have not yet firmed up their hope in Allah burdens that the population can’t carry. Then the people would just step aside, and the consequences would be dire .
Most of the “veterans” understand what the support of the people means, while those who are newcomers to Jihad are not fully aware of the importance of this issue. So we can sometimes witness disrespectful behavior [from the newcomers] towards local Muslims who do not have much knowledge about Islam.
Without the orders and recriminations that you sometimes get when foreign Mujahideen address Syrians, the people understand that they can breathe more easily and for free, and I mean that literally. Since the Assad regime had a tax for “clean air” under the pretext of using special equipment to clean the air, not to mention very high taxes on agriculture and so on.
Q: Who are the “Free Syrian Army”, what are relations with them like, and what are the prospects – i.e. what can we expect from them in the future?
Abu Isa: According to one of the Mujahideen in Homs, originally the Free Syrian Army was the camp created by people with a strong Iman and correct Akida.
At first, people thought the FSA were just a bunch of thugs who’d banded together for personal gain. Then the militia began to gain momentum, and began to be joined by professional soldiers from the Assad Army, and ordinary peasants. As the conflict went on, soldiers from the Syrian Arab Army started to defect and young people who disagreed with its policies — which are certainly not consistent with Sharia Law — started to creat Islamic Jamaat.
Today many [in the FSA] are people with a weak Iman and what we can expect from them in the future, Allah knows best, but many brothers predict that they will succumb to the politics of the West, whose interests don’t coincide with establishing Sharia Law.
Q: And how did it happen that those with a strong Iman and correct Akida who founded the FSA lost influence? And how exactly does the FSA’s politics go against Sharia Law?
Abu Isa:When it was created, the FSA needed an influx of manpower, and new fighters were not admitted under strict regulations based on Sharia.
More people joined up who were seeking worldly rewards, than did those who were fighting to establish the laws of Allah. Naturally, those who fought in the ranks of the FSA for Allah’s sake, lost credibility in this environment, and were forced to create Islamic Jamaat outside the FSA.
The FSA’s current politics aren’t oriented toward calling for Sharia Law. On the contrary, we see nationalist flags and non-Islamic slogans, this lack of a call for Islamic rule is carried out with the full Ignorance of senior officers, which people started to call the “Army of Thieves.” They work closely with the infidel nations on a democratic basis…
Among the leaders there are some absolutely disgusting people, such as the famous FSA chief of police in the suburbs of Aleppo, who are infamous among the people for their thieving, who when he was asked to stop Haram [sinful acts] said, “I come from Haram was born in Haram, live in Haram and will die in Haram”….
There are those in the FSA who love the Islamic Jamaat and show that love. In particular, it should be noted that there are constantly individuals and entire teams with commanders joining the Mujahideen from the FSA. That is, in the ranks of the FSA there are healthy forces, and there are those who come to the understanding of Islam, praise be to Allah.
I met with an FSA “general” who commanded an entire squad of foreign fighters and who had obvious sympathy with the Mujahideen, despite the fact that some of the foreign fighters were sympathetic to the takfiris and were serious trying to push him away from the Mujahideen.
For example, at the beginning of the year the FSA commander Abu Sayf and his party joined the Mujahideen and are now actively engaged in combat operations under the command of Oman al-Shishani.
By the way, an important point — people are well aware who the FSA are and treat them accordingly. The FSA gets little support from the people, or rather, it’s not the people who support them but families and people who have or hope to get material rewards for the support. But the majority of the people are clearly on the side of the Mujahideen.
Q: What advice would you give those brothers who are going to Syria?
Abu Isa: First of all I would like to advise all Russian-speaking brethren who are thinking of waging Jihad in Syria to go to the Caucasus. Because right now, the Jihad in the Caucasus is hardest and most in need of a new influx of forces.
Those who were already in Syria, my advice is don’t be too lazy, go get more experience in all areas of military affairs and possibly go back to the Caucasus to continue the Jihad there. Be steadfast and patient in everything, especially with local Muslims minimal knowledge of Islam. They should struggle with those passions that we can never get rid of, in fact many seditions are born of the ego. Avoid gossip and verbiage that weaken our ranks. Don’t waste time on a military base where there are no combat missions.
As far as I can tell, Jihad in Syria, as well as Jihad in the Caucasus is evidence of the global recovery of Islam. But it would be a mistake to say that Jihad in a given region is a decisive battle with the infidels. Muslim forces are still weak in comparison with the forces of the global infidels. So when some brothers say, when we defeat Syria, we will go to the Caucasus, they don’t mean it literally, like they will fight through Turkey, Georgia, etc.
Today in Syria, young brothers from the Caucasus are able to get military training, plus they can form themselves as Muslims and strengthen themselves as Mujahideen, so that they can penetrate into the occupied Russian land via “legal” channels and strike there themselves, and sooner or later that will lead to the fall of the empire who will be forced to withdraw from the Russian Caucasus just as they withdrew from Afghanistan and Eastern Europe.
So those who really intend to fight in Russia after Syria should have a clear plan and act in accordance with it, in particular they need to hide what they do in Syria so they don’t get caught on video or on camera and so on.
[Featured Image: Chechen fighters in Syria who did not listen to Abu Isa]