Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Caucasus Report

Remembering Mansur

Sheikh MansurSheikh Mansur
Sheikh Mansur
Sheikh Mansur
Every insurgency produces its share of legendary leaders; but not all such men are unconditionally respected and loved by their comrades-in-arms.

One who met those criteria was the Chechen commander and Islamic scholar Arbi Yovmirzayev (nom de guerre Sheikh Mansur), who died one year ago after treading on a land mine during a trek from one mountain base to another. He was 37. The fighter who sat by his head as he lay dying on a snow-covered hillside was openly weeping.

Yovmirzayev was born in 1972 in the village of Samashki, west of Grozny. After graduating from secondary school in 1988 he trained for two years as a boxer with a renowned trainer in Grozny, but then developed an overwhelming interest in religion.

He studied the Koran first in Tajikistan, then in 1992 travelled to Uzbekistan, but was expelled from that country the following year. He continued his studies first in Chechnya, then Daghestan, then, in 1994, he travelled to Saudi Arabia to study at Medina University.

Yovmirzayev's studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the first Chechen war in December 1994. He returned home in 1995, and joined the armed resistance, participating in the audacious operation to retake Grozny from occupying Russian forces in early August 1996.

After the signing on August 31 of the Khasavyurt peace agreements formally ending hostilities, Yovmirzayev went back to Saudi Arabia to continue his studies, but again returned to Chechnya when hostilities resumed in 1999.

In 2002, he was named a unit commander, and then Chechen Republic Ichkeria (ChRI) President Aslan Maskhadov appointed him a member of the State Defense Committee. In 2006, on the basis of his knowledge of Islamic law, Yovmirzayev was named chairman of the Higher Shari'a Court.

London-based ChRI acting Prime Minister Akhmed Zakayev, who first met Yovmirzayev during the 1994-96 war, describes him as "without doubt one of the best fighters of the Chechen resistance. He was extremely devout. He had great authority, not just among the resistance fighters, but within Chechen society, because he was one of the most educated and the best informed about religion. Especially after [the death of Maskhadov's successor as Chechen Republic Ichkeria president] Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev, there was no one to rival him in this regard within the armed formations, and in Chechnya as a whole.

"He could find a common language with anyone, his comprehension of the situation in Chechnya was unerringly accurate. He was also extremely knowledgeable about international politics and what was going on in the world. In short, he was a uniquely talented individual, mature beyond his years, and rose to the occasion to discharge the enormous responsibilities placed upon him."

Split With Umarov

In late 2007, however, Yovmirzayev, like Zakayev, openly denounced the decision by Sadullayev's successor as ChRI president, Doku Umarov, to abandon the cause of Chechen independence and proclaim a "Caucasian Emirate" with himself as its leader.  Several other commanders, including Islamic jamaat commander Abubakar Elmuradov and Zaurbek Avdorkhanov, followed suit.

Avdorkhanov is now aligned with the Chechen commanders who split with Umarov last summer. He reportedly played a key role in the August 2010 attack on Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov's home village of Tsentoroi.

Like Zakayev, Yovmirzayev protested that Umarov's proclamation of a Caucasus emirate violated both Shari'a law and the ChRI Constitution.

Umarov responded to that criticism by tasking Tarhan Gaziyev, southwest front commander and emirate intelligence chief, to assassinate the dissenters. Tarhan duly sought out Yovmirzayev, but after talking to him was won over by the arguments he adduced. To his eternal credit, Tarhan reported back to Umarov that there were no grounds to level any accusations against Yovmirzayev.

It was that altercation between Umarov and Tarhan, according to Zakayev, that sowed the seeds of the split last summer within the Chechen ranks and the rescinding by Tarhan, Khusein Gakayev, Aslambek Vadalov, and the Arab commander Muhannad of their bayat (oath of subservience) to Umarov. Umarov has publicly blamed the split on Muhannad.

In the spring of 2008, Yovmirzayev taped an extended video address to Zakayev (see Part 1, 2, 3, 4) detailing the impact within the resistance ranks of Umarov's proclamation of the Caucasus emirate. Specifically, he told Zakayev that Umarov had sidelined him and cut him out of the supply chain, and he was having problems securing supplies for the men under his command.

Unique Personality

The numerous video clips featuring Yovmirzayev, posted on YouTube and on the website djama1at.com, testify to his physical courage, his total dedication to the cause of Chechen independence, and his unfailing cheerfulness.

He was wounded at least twice: in 2006 he sustained a serious chest wound, apparently from a shell fragment, and two years later he was wounded in the leg. (We see him here giving a running commentary as he cleans and dresses that wound himself.)

In footage filmed just a couple of days before his death, he is seen joking with two fellow fighters digging a new hideout. But even here he swiftly turns serious, warning: "We're preparing for a fight. We are not the sort to talk big. We know we were created weak. But if the occupiers don't leave us in peace, we'll make them run screaming for their mothers."

He was also totally unassuming. In the classic 2009 portrait gallery of 48 prominent insurgency commanders, some strike martial poses; others are shown smiling with one arm across a fellow fighter's shoulders. Yovmirzayev is pictured in his house shoes by the stove at one of the better-equipped bases, displaying a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Both Umarov and Gakayev have stressed that the death of individual fighters, whatever their rank, has little impact on the effectiveness of the insurgency, as others will step forward to take their place. But Yovmirzayev's untimely death has left the moderate wing of the Chechen insurgency without an Islamic scholar at a time when its leaders are seeking to craft some kind of synthesis between Shari'a and a more egalitarian military democracy that recalls the Greek city state of Sparta in the fifth-fourth centuries B.C.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
March 18, 2011 04:33
And SINCE WHEN RFE/RL has started writing eulogies for Islamic Terrorists ?

by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
March 18, 2011 04:39
I also want to ask RFE/RL since when you become eulogizing for those who were associated with Doku Umarov, the man declared by the US State Dept as a terrorist ?
In Response

by: Shamil from: Grozniy, Chechen Republic
March 18, 2011 15:24
Mansur never was a terrorist. He was a Great Chechen "k'onah" of proud nation.
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 19, 2011 14:59
His knowledge of Islam comes from the regime of Saudi Arabia, which is currently engaged in the massacres of Bahrain, and intolerance of conscience. There is no question he would have brought the same to Chechnya, while sending others' children and sisters to permanently damn themselves in malls, subways, airports...
In Response

by: Shamil from: Grozniy, Chechen Republic
March 18, 2011 15:29
BTW, He went against Doku Umarov, because is the terrorist just like Putin and Kadirov.
In Response

by: Vlad from: Romania
March 19, 2011 22:27
Sergey, why is it that every Muslim man who fights for his and his families rights is an Islamic terrorist? This war was and remains to be a war not based upon religion to the most extent but simple morality. To not be raped and kidnapped, massacared and deported. This war has become partly religious only due to oppression of religion. Consequently leading to people realising that Allah was the only saving grace from the travesties delivered upon them. I am no apologist for suicide bombing, so take me not as a sympathiser for methods used by Dokku Umarov. Remember this however, Putin has killed far more people in all parts of his country and when he dies, unfortunately he WILL have many eulogies written about him. If you are a supporter of Putin you are being misled, this man cares not for anyone but himself and his image.The Moscow bombings and Beslan are testament to that. Also take into account the fact that this man,Mansur broke away from Dokku Umarov no sooner than he understood that Umarov had created an Islamic Emirate. This man was no Islamic terrorist just a renegade against oppression who happened to be Muslim and used his Religion for Inspiration. A true Mujahid and a true Shaheed! And please do some research and at least read the article fully before commenting! Don't let blind support of one man or one idea cloud your judgement.
In Response

by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
March 20, 2011 00:20
For your info, breaking with this or that Jihadi leader does not mean abandoning Jihad. It means simply disagreements on the means of carrying it out or scope of Jihad. Here is YouTube video where Umarov and Mansour are talking to TV camera back in 2007.


You want to tell me that Mansour did not know who Umarov was back then ? This article is a bunch of Pro-Islamic Jihadist crap--there is no such thing as Freedom Fighter in Islamic world and there is no way to reconcile Greco-Roman or Western liberties with Islamic law because fighting for Islamic causes means fighting for the establishment of the worldwide Islamic Caliphate with Sharia Law. Sharia Law, no matter what ultra-liberal propaganda say, means enslavement of humanity to the barbaric Islamic law. Sharia means deprivation of women of any rights and turning them into property of their fathers and after marriage-their husbands. Sharia means death penalty for abandoning Islam and cutting off limbs for petty crimes. Sharia means destruction of any semblance of liberty that the Western people for generations take for granted. And Mansour was no different in that regard than Umarov--they fought not for liberty in the Western Sense of the word but for Islamic Caliphate. The difference between them was superfluous--different on technicalities but not on the end goal.

That's a fact and there is absolutely no evidence that either Umarov or Mansour or Maskhadov or any other Islamist in North Caucasus or anywhere else in the world are different in any way except the ability to use gullible Western Liberal Media and proclaim that they are fighting the same fight as Washington did against the British. I do not buy any pro-Islamic propaganda anymore for a long long time because I follow the news on regions taken over by Islamists and how they turn out long after they cease to be in the media spotlight. Look at post-Soviet Afghanistan--it became the heaven of Taliban and Al-Qaida. Look at Kosovo--it is now a lair of AL-Qaida allied KLA and organ-trafficking Hashim Thaci. You can bet a fortune that nothing good will come out of the Middle East turmoil either. In Egypt after the fall of Mubarak regime, Christian Copts are already murdered by dozens by Islamic thugs. There are aspects of Islam that are simply incompatible with liberty whether many like to admit it or not.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 20, 2011 02:12
Americans used to say, "friend of State Department "Serger:
"One man's terrorist is another's man Freedom Fighter."
Without analyzing actual activety of Mansur Yovmirzaev,
One can use the most important history's identifiers:

Degree of limmitted independence or Authonomy
That required for people be free and live in dignity
Is the ultimate demand of an individual or a group.
For Caucasus it's times of Peter the I agreements
To remove bases and for Georgia-Caucasus - CIS,
Caucasus have peace and leaving Russian troops.

Limmitted indeperndence required no Muslim bases,
And no terrorist activety against Christian neighbours.
That condition Russia is using - against all Caucsus.
Since 1954-56 Russia "oborotens", killers and "vors" ,
Pin it on Caucasians - Mansur was against that goal.

Anonimous - isn't it so many Russians were staying,
In Egipt and all those other places? Saudi Arabians
Are not necessary "massacre" best education there,
Mansur was very educated man, is Russia hate him
For leaving their "Oboroten's" and killed him for that?
In Response

by: Sergey from: Chicago,USA
March 20, 2011 17:31
Konstantin, before writing another piece of incomprehensible political poetry, at least check the dictionary. I simply cannot understand what is your point other than that you like Mansour and N. Caucasus Jihadists and view them as "freedom fighters". We've already have helped these types of "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan in the 1980's and the Balkans in the 1990's and now helping them in Lybia. I am sure that Al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and all the other Jihadists who view America as the "Great Satan" will suddenly love America and stop all the terror against American and the Western interests (SARCASM). What is almost certainly going to happen is that the very people we are helping now in Lybia will be spreading Jihad further around the world including in Europe, America, Russia--everywhere. A 1400 year old Islamic Jihad has its own logic and its own goals--the world conquest. Umarov and Mansour are Jihadists, just like Taleban, Hamas, Hezbollah and the rest of Islamic terrorists, insurgents or revolutionaries (if you prefer). Unless Western Elites who suppose to guard the long-term interests of Western civilization continue to be siding with Jihadists (Lybia is the latest example but lukewarm support for N. Caucasus insurgents among Western liberal circles is another example), the very survival of Western Civilization is in peril.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 21, 2011 09:42
My point is comprehensibly clear, Russian lier!
Your point is clear too, at least to me, sponsoring terror for hire,
Or by horror, using pseudo-Muslims, accompanying Russians
As childrens-slaves of raped Caucasian girls by Boldyrev quire,
Or WW2 criminals children, forced into KGB, GRU and Spetcnaz.

Genocidize Abkhazia, invade South Osetia, kill children in Beslan.
I do not have to like any of them, sertainly not you, Russian animal,
Prizing bestial tortures and murder Millions civilians in Afghanistan,
As swine Pushkin smeared "Satrap" in "Mazepa" for Russian swines!

It is the point - Mansur tried brake with Russian terror and ballance,
If he could, Chechen future with proper religious moral values -
Like "Serpom po yaytcam" for expanding with nerve gas
Cheremushka and cut-off heads Russian animals,
Perverting Muhamed into a killing Russian brass!
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 20, 2011 17:51
You are a parody of a Gruzian. Wahabists will be running everything soon, because at least they are not Russian.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 21, 2011 09:58
Parody of anything, but an animal, is you. As I have no nation,
Betrayed by Moskow at age 4 and sentenced to death in 1947
For refusing be plagiarised by Russian swines, after helping
The suffering Humanity - no nation supports, but only Heaven
My priorities and royalties rights, or even right to be left alone.

Thus, I am not Georgian, and I sertainly not "Gruzian", swine!
Greeks, betrayers of Troy, invaded derigatory "Gruzin" - to pry
Than passed it to you, Rashkas, along with envious greens,
GRU turned into "Gruzian" - A reply to Sergey is also for you.
In Response

by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
March 22, 2011 00:10
Konstantin, have you visited doctor lately ? Maybe you should, because your bubble is getting more and more bizarre.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 22, 2011 21:22
If it is Sergey, the Russian KGB snitch, I once new,
I remember some of his hanchmen-executioners,
He lovishly calls "Doctor", crushing a tooth or two
By non-letal weapon than puling it - than another,
Healthy tooth - by "doctor" of Suhumi KGB brew.

It's Bizare, your race of Russian bloody wommits,
Danceling-lying from Suhumi thropugh Tchinvali,
Singerling like Bratushka Sergey the "Traly-Vali"!
Innuendo-treat Sergey by Russian snitch-Iudas?

Are you implying that it's a secret war of the USSR
And dare threatening me, to keep my mouth shot?
I never had and have not pledge to anybody, mud!
It is war of Russia to murder nations and expand,
Dressed like "oboroten's", snobishly moving buts,
Lying about alterrior "HIGHER PURPOSE" of hors.

When one try save his nation from that, you just kill,
As you probably did to a Chechen Muslim - Mansur.

by: Bill from: Dallas, TX
March 21, 2011 15:21
I feel foolish knowing some of my tax dollars are going to RFE.

by: Thomas from: The Netherlands
March 25, 2011 08:37
I very much appreciated this article. All too often people like Mansur are simply referred to as 'militants' of 'Islamic terrorists'. He appears to me as an honorable man.

by: Mariam from: Earth
March 28, 2011 09:03
Thank you, Thomas...

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.