Accessibility links

Daghestan’s Mufti Slams 'Indiscriminate' Violence By Security Forces


Akhmed-hadji Abdullayev, the head of Daghestan's Spiritual Board of Muslims.

Akhmed-hadji Abdullayev, the head of Daghestan's Spiritual Board of Muslims.

Akhmed-hadji Abdullayev, the head of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Daghestan (DUMD), has released a cautiously-worded statement condemning two of the factors that have in no small measure contributed to the evolution of the Islamic insurgency into a major political and ideological force: denunciations of suspected militants and support personnel, and brutal reprisals by police and security personnel against the persons thus identified.

Nonetheless, in light of Abdullayev’s lack of authority among believers, especially within the police and security forces, his appeal is unlikely to have the desired effect.

Although Abdullayev did not spell out explicitly the connection between the two phenomena he condemned, the first directly facilitates the second, insofar as police routinely target persons denounced as suspects without investigating whether or not they have any connection with the insurgency.

Killings Based On 'Misgivings And Suspicions'

There have been several incidents in recent years in which blameless but devout believers were killed in counterterror operations launched on the basis of neighbors’ stated misgivings and suspicions.

An opinion poll among 1,600 young Daghestanis conducted between January-May 2010 found that 25.5 percent said they would inform the police if they knew that a relative or acquaintance was an "extremist or terrorist."

Only 35 said they would not do so; the rest were unable to say how they would react in such circumstances.

Abdullayev stressed that Shari'a law forbids either denunciation or slander. He warned against inferring from the fact that a woman wears a head scarf or a man a long beard that the person in question is an adherent of "wahhabism." That strain of Islam is legally banned in Daghestan.

Abdullayev also said he does not believe "unpleasant rumors" that Muslim clergy provide the Interior Ministry with data on “wahhabis.” But for good measure, he warned imams that it is not part of their duty to spy on members of their congregation.

The police do nonetheless keep a register of suspected fighters and support personnel.

In November 2008, the then Interior Minister Lieutenant General Adilgirey Magomedtagirov said that this register listed the names of 1,370 "wahhabis."

Addressing the police, Abdullayev said he understands their concern that they could at any moment be targeted by the insurgency. (Killings of police by militants became so frequent in the summer of 2009 that officers in Makhachkala abandoned their uniforms for plain clothes.)

Nonetheless, at the same time, Abdullayev warned that the desire to avenge fellow officers who have fallen victim to the insurgency does not justify the use of indiscriminate brutality against persons whose guilt has not been proven.

Negligible Authority

Abdullayev’s appeal is unlikely, however, to have much impact, for the following reasons.

First, Abdullayev himself is not widely respected, either among believers in general, or among his fellow clerics. (He is seen in this clip giving a passable imitation of a stand-up comedian.)

Abdullayev’s authority is negligible compared with that of Daghestan’s most revered Sufi sheikh, Said-Afandy Chirkeisky. Chirkeisky has his own website, and his thousands of murids (disciples) include many members of the police and security forces.

Second, Abdullayev’s condemnation of police brutality towards suspected insurgents constitutes a U-turn, given that the DUMD has publicly endorsed the conduct of counterterror operations and the killing of insurgents .

In a recent interview, Abdullayev sought to distance himself from that ruling, stressing that it was a collective decision and not taken by him singlehandedly.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG