Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Abdulatipov’s New Hard Line on Islamists Reflects Deteriorating Security Situation in Daghestan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – Daghestani leader Ramazan Abdulatipov has adopted a harsh new line against Islamists in his North Caucasus republic, one far removed from the views for which he earlier attracted positive attention and a shift that some see as leading to extra-judicial murders of Wahhabis and other Islamists there given the deteriorating security situation there.

            In an article on the “Bolshoy Kavkaz” portal, Svetlana Bolotnikova discusses Abdulatipov’s evolution and both what it says about where Daghestan is now and what it may presage about developments there in the coming months (

            Seven years ago, she notes, Abdulatipov said in the course of an interview with “Vechernyaya Moskva” that “Wahhabism appears as a result of hunger, poverty and the lack of civilized values,” a position that reflects the views of much of the expert community in Moscow and the West.

            But upon being named head of Daghestan, Bolotnikova points out, “his position regarding Wahhabis sharply changed. Instead of pointing to social problems, Abdulatipov reportedly said in Khadhalmakhi that he is quite prepared to “permit the destruction of radicals under his personal responsibility” rather than through education, social change or the courts.

            Six were shot at that time, Bolotnikova says, including a woman“whose body was found in a river.”

            Khahimurad Damadayev, the imam of a village in the republic’s Shamil District, told the Makhachkala weekly “Chernovik” what he had heard.  “In the district,” he said, there wasa rumor that Abdulatipov had said: ‘Throw all the Wahhabis in the river. I will take responsibility’” if you do.

            According to the imam, several people in his district decided to “follow the example of Khadzhalmakhi” and deal with the Wahhabis on their own and “without the participation of the law enforcement organs.” The authorities then dispatched a more senior imam into his village, Damadayev said, who called on people to ensure that there were no Wahhabis there and to use whatever means were necessary to ensure that, including “boycotts and even murders.”

            Abdulatipov for his part sought to blame the media for all this. He threatened to shut down “Chernovik” and declared that “certain media have in fact provoked the murder of people in the republic.”  But an examination of the record shows that it is the republic head and not the media that have been fanning the flames of popular anger at the Wahhabis, Bolotnikova says.

              A week ago, in remarks covered extensively in the Daghestani media, Abdulatipov said that “it is necessary that people after such cases autonomatically go out and help the police and the law enforcement organs.  Questions of the security of the republic and our citizens are so serious that we must not put the task only on the shoulders of the officers of these [organs].  Society must be involved.”

            Moreover and in support of that goal, Abdulatipov has sponsored the creation of popular druzhinniki groups, some of whom have already engaged in extra-judicial executions and of people who have “no relation” to Wahhabism. And he has demanded that the leaders of regions come up with lists of Wahhabis who can be targeted.

            According to Bolotnikova, Abdulatipov is especially concerned about the 200 Daghetanis the FSB says have gone to Syria to fight the regime of Bashar Asad.  When they return after receiving “the international support of extremist and terrorist organizations,” they will represent a serious threat.”

            Therefore, he continued, officials at all levels must follow these people and “take a whole line of measures for their neutralization so that their influence will be minimal.”  As Bolotnikova points out, “in the language of the FSB, ‘neutralization’ means the physical elimination of the militants.” Thus, some coming back from Syria may be “destroyed” as a prevention measure.

            These returnees and also those coming back from Muslim medrassahs and universities in Syria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere must be eliminated, Abdulatipov has said, “because “these people are fighting together with international extremists” and constitute “a direct threat to Daghestan.”

            The Daghestani head adds that from now on, no one will be given a foreign passport in Daghestan without official clearance and investigation of his or her family and ideological reliability. And those that don’t pass muster will be included in lists where they will be subject to special and continuing scrutiny.

            Obviously, only a radical deterioration in the security situation in Daghestan and Moscow’s insistence that something be done and done quickly can explain such a remarkable shift in the position of Abdulatipov, once upon a time one of the most thoughtful observers of the situation there.

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