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I Love My Mom, But I Love IS More, Militant Says

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

Abu Umar Grozny, the Chechen commander of Islamic State's North Caucasian battalion, holds a child in one of his social-media postings.

Abu Umar Grozny, the Chechen commander of Islamic State's North Caucasian battalion, holds a child in one of his social-media postings.

"I love my mom very much.... When I start to think about my mother, my God, it's as if my heart is breaking."

These words are from the opening lines of a post shared by Russian-speaking fighters for the militant group Islamic State (IS) on the VKontakte social network, originally written by Abu Umar Grozny, the Chechen commander of IS's North Caucasian battalion Al-Aqsa.

Although Grozny's VKontakte account has now been banned, the post was most recently shared on July 15 by a pro-IS account belonging to Said Murtuzaliev. The post first appeared in June.

In his post, which is aimed at recruiting new Russian-speaking IS militants, Grozny openly admits his love for his mother and his pain at being parted from her but says he joined IS despite this.

Grozny, whose nom de guerre indicates he is from the Chechen capital, also expresses harsh criticism for men who do not join IS because they say they would miss their mothers too much.

'It's Too Painful To Phone Home'

In the first part of the post, Grozny recalls his mother's maternal traits, including her "good heart, her love for her children, her concern... her ability to sense your condition even at hundreds of kilometers' distance from you... her pain when she worries about you, her longing."

And the Chechen militant shows he is fully aware how he has upset his mother by leaving her and joining IS in Syria. He says it is "difficult" for him to "hear her grieving voice" and to "hear how she weeps."

His mother's grief, and the emotional reaction he has to it, prevents Grozny from calling home.

"I rarely phone her because I hear her answer with all my heart, and her grief makes things hard for me," Grozny writes.

The IS militant goes on to imagine what he would do if his mother were suddenly to appear beside him.

"I would hug her tight and not let go," he wrote. "I miss her so much, her scent, her smile, her tired eyes."

Real Men Wage Jihad

Grozny's admission that he misses his mom, as well as his empathy for his mother's own suffering and his understanding that he caused that pain, appear at odds with IS's culture of hyper-masculinity, macho toughness, and brutality.

But through his post, Grozny is expressing a new kind of "IS masculinity" where militants must accept the sacrifice of personal pain for the greater good of the IS project.

This concept is part of a wider narrative of "IS manliness" that is emerging among Russian-speaking militants in Syria and Iraq, and which Grozny exemplifies.

A prominent and well-respected battalion among North Caucasian IS fighters, Grozny is most often photographed in military fatigues, many times carrying a weapon. Yet Grozny has also shared a "softer" side of his personality, including by posting photographs of his children and self-portraits of himself with other militants.

In doing so, Grozny appears to be seeking to create a new idea of "IS masculinity" by demonstrating how "real" militants should behave.

In the poem, Abu Umar Grozny professes his love for his mother.

In the poem, Abu Umar Grozny professes his love for his mother.

But there is a deeply sinister side to this. Not only should they be good comrades to their fellow IS fighters, "real" men should also raise "IS babies," the next generation of militants.

And in his open admission of strong emotion for his mother, Grozny is arguing that by joining IS and hurting his family, he is being a real man.

Grozny suggests that the intense emotions he and his mother experience are nothing compared with the suffering of Muslim women in the wider Ummah, or global Muslim community.

"What are my mother and her tears to me when the tears of thousands and thousands of mothers of this Ummah have not yet dried?" Grozny asks.

"I didn't feel the pain of the mothers, I didn't feel how despair breaks fathers, I didn't feel the pain of the sisters [Muslim women] thrown in dungeons, only because I and others like me were cowards."

Grozny suggests that true manliness is to be found in elevating the pain felt by the global Muslim "family" over one's personal pain, and joining IS to fight for "all Muslims."

Grozny's claim that he fights for the global community of Muslims is nothing new. It is a standard element of IS's recruitment propaganda, as is his suggestion that IS is avenging Muslim women in Syria.

This recruitment narrative does not mention IS's brutality toward Sunni Muslims who oppose it or who are deemed to have committed crimes. IS has carried out mass killings of Sunni tribes in Iraq, who belong to the same "global Ummah" for which Grozny says he is fighting.

Grozny also ignores IS's treatment of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, and of Shi'ite Muslims, whom the extremist Sunni group believes are "apostates." A video from January shows a close associate of Grozny, a militant named Mansur Shishani who has since been killed, kicking and stamping on a Shi'ite hostage, who is referred to as a "Rafidite," a religious slur meaning "Shi'ite."

Mother Is Dear, Father Is Dear, But Not As Dear As IS

Continuing with his recruitment pitch, Grozny says that "real" militants must prioritize their love for Islam over their love for their families and must not use their mothers as an excuse for not joining IS.

"Woe betide those whose love for their parents is greater than their love for Allah!" he writes.

In a chilling conclusion, Grozny appeals to Russian-speaking Muslims to join IS by calling on them to recognize his humanity.

"I find it strange to hear how certain brothers [male Muslims] talk about how they can't leave their parents, that they will die of grief," he writes. "Are your parents better than ours? Or do you think we don't have hearts?"

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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