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Thousands left Russia’s North Caucasus Federal District to join Islamic State, much less left Azerbaijan and Georgia for the same reason: expert

Ahmet Yarlikapov. Photo: islamrf.ru

The Islamic State is a serious challenge to the security of Russia, as a very big number of the North Caucasus residents have joined it. “Providing that the number of the IS militants averages 30,000 people, the Caucasus residents account for 2,000-3,000 of them. It is a very large number,” said Ahmet Yarlikapov, the senior research fellow at the Center for Caucasian Studies and Regional Security, MGIMO University, in a report at a conference “Religion in the South of Russia: Aspects of Interaction” held in Moscow lately under the aegis of the Research Society of Specialists in the Caucasus.

According to the expert, many fled the North Caucasus Federal District to join the Islamic State, much more than from Azerbaijan and Georgia. “Some 100 people have left Georgia, about 400-500 - Azerbaijan. According to different estimates, at least 2,000 people (too low estimate) or maximum 7,000 people (too high estimate) have left the North Caucasus. I guess the real figure is somewhere between these two estimates. Over 2,000 people left Dagestan, 3,000 – Chechnya.  In fact, Chechens are joining IS also from Europe,” Yarlikapov said.

The expert said residents of the North Caucasus leave for “jihad” not only from their republics, but also from the northern regions of Russia.  “For instance, in autumn 2014, 15 young men left Kizlyar region, Dagestan, for Syria. At least four of them come from Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District,” the expert said. Yarlikapov is sure that the IS recruits its supporters in a consistent manner, not chaotically.  They use all possible loopholes and act throughout Russia, not just in the North Caucasus. “Suffice it to say that the Russian language is the third popular language after the Arabic and English on the information resources of the Islamic State,” the expert said.

Ahmet Yarlikapov highlights that the Jihadists do not recruit randoms. “Among their recruits are surgeons necessary for ‘illegal organ transplantation’ and trafficking in organs, or at least for treatment of wounded militants. Among the recruits there are also oil-field experts to operate the enterprises under control of the Islamists,” Yarlikapov said in his report.

He explains the success of the recruiters with the general disappointment of the youth in the North Caucasus due to the prospering corruption, clans, and lack of social development. “The youth is attracted by the social justice – something they no longer anticipate in their historical motherland. The major motive is the demand for social justice,” the expert explained.

In addition, many militants fighting in the North Caucasus prefer “forests” to the territories under full control of the Islamic State: for instance, Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) has actually turned into a branch of the Islamic State, as all the leading figures there have sworn allegiance to it. Such work style of the Islamic State along with expansion of network groups throughout Russia means, “even if they are defeated in Syria and Iraq, it will not be a final victory over the Islamic State,” Yarlikapov said. 

Prepared by EADaily based on materials of the Research Society of Specialists in the Caucasus Studies

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