The adventures of young Moslem radical

The life of Ruslan is typical for most Chechen young people who live in this war-torn country. Many young people pursue lust for adventures and expressing themselves by participating in different radical sects and organizations.

In Chechnya radical ideas often mislead young people who join so called Jihad warriors. However, later many of them disappoint in radical ideas after experiencing the horror of war, where they have to commit crimes and see the deaths of their friends.

So did Ruslan. During his studying at History Department of Ingush State University he met senior student Isa who invited Ruslan to his home. There for the first time Ruslan heard about the need to unite all true Moslems (Vakhabbits) in religious brotherhoods  to fight the opponents of their religion. Ruslan remembered the cold, fanatical look of the speaker s eyes. This middle-aged man gave many examples from his life at war   attacks, fights, long marches   which impressed the young listeners. The man s name was Umar and he was the leader in a  Brotherhood in Dagestan.

For about six months Ruslan and his friends visited Isa s place. They were told much about the principles of the false religion   Vakhabism. Ruslan started missing classes because he had to meet Umar very often. The  brotherhood  leader wanted to persuade Ruslan and his friends to quit the university by telling that the true Moslem needs only spiritual education. Spending much time with his new  spiritual leader , Ruslan could hardly pass his exams at university.

At the beginning of summer Ruslan and his fellow student Vakha did not go to have holidays in their native village. They joined the group of the young people Umar selected for military training in one of the militants  camps located on the southern border between Ingushetia and Chechnya.

The boys were hesitant to go to the training camp. But they changed their mind after Umar s promise to give each of them a 100 dollar reward after military studies and a short practical training.

Ruslan did not receive the money even after being more than three months in the forest with militants.

The first 30 days he spend in the camp practicing shooting  and studying how to treat mines and explosives. They were read literature on Vakhabbism by the teachers-Arabs who could hardly speak Russian. They enforced very strict discipline according to the Shariat laws.

After conducting a hard 5 day march and hardly avoided being caught by Russian troops, the group arrived at a base in Vedeno district.

At the beginning of August Ruslan with several young people were enlisted in the group under command of  Chechen militant Shamil Gelikhanov. Before his arrival many the gang lost many militants. On his second day in the gang, it came under bombardment by Russian troops. Vakha was badly wounded. His life could be saved if the commander had let transport Vakha to the district hospital. But Shamil considered this to be too dangerous. Vakha died of bleeding six hours later.

The death of his friend shocked Ruslan and he started thinking about leaving the gang. He finally quit after seeing the murder of a teacher. That night the group entered Oktyabrskoe village and Shamil demanded its residents to bring food, clothes and guards to the gang s destination. The local school teacher Agariz Saidaliev refused to assist the militants, and the commander beat the teacher and shot him into his head. Ruslan was terrified by seeing this murder.

He and two more young people could leave the gang after Shamil got drunk and fell asleep. The other four militants could not stop them.

Twp weeks later Ruslan came to his native village. After a long hard conversation with his father the former Vakhabbit came to the district police station, gave his weapons and told the investigator about his adventures.

The investigation lasted long, but finally Ruslan was let go home provided that he commited no serious crimes and came to the police voluntarily. The father immediately sent him to elatives who live in another village to provide protection from Gerikhanov s gang revenge.

Several months later Ruslan was still reserved and felt tension. He approached the reporter who visited the village and asked to write about his life story. Ruslan hopes other young people will not make mistakes after learning about his experience.

Andrew Pilipchuk

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey