“Those who have made the oath” – this is how they in the Pankisi Gorge call people who have pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In its interview with ISIL member Abdullah, who came back home from Syria a few months ago, EADaily wants to know what plans the ISIL has in the Caucasus and why more and more young people are going to the Middle East.
Why did you join the ISIL?
Our oath is based on the Quran prophecy about the new Caliphate. So, we have made the oath to fight for the lives of Muslims, for their welfare and for the strength of the Islamic State.
Many people in the Pankisi Gorge say that there are certain forces that are recruiting youths into the ISIL. How was it with you?
This is not true. There are no recruiters in the Pankisi Gorge. I would not endanger my life for the sake of money. We are going to Syria because we believe.
As far as I know, each ISIL member is obliged to go to Syria. Is it true?
Yes, it’s true. But this concerns not only those who have made the oath but all Muslims – for the Syrian people need our help. They are being killed and tortured and we are obliged to help them.
But the ISIL is also killing Muslims, isn’t it?
Do you mean Al Assad’s supporters? They are no Muslims. None of the groups fighting in Syria, except the ISIL, observes the Sharia law. They are cooperating with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. There were cases when Al Assad’s army or the international coalition bombed our positions from territories controlled by other groups, particularly, the al-Nusra Front.
Why did you come back to Georgia?
My family lives here. I have done my duty in Syria and now I am back home. Sooner or later, all those who have made the oath will have to go back to the Caliphate. But this is not possible for the time being as our families are afraid to go.
Do you help those wishing to go?
If I wish to go to Turkey, why should I ask anybody for help?
And how do people get to Syria?
As a rule, they cross the Turkish border. We have no problems with the Turks.
Do you mean that they don’t create any obstacles?
If the Turkish border guards wish, they will not let a single sparrow into their country. When I was going to Syria, they knew that we were going to a territory controlled by the ISIL and did nothing to stop us. Usually, they just pretend that they don’t understand what is going on.
How many Pankisi Gorge residents have fought in the ISIL-controlled territory?
I can’t say for sure but I guess dozens of people. Most of them are ISIL members.
Recently Georgia adopted a law punishing those involved in illegal armed groups. Will it stop those wishing to go to Syria?
He who wants to go will go. Simply, he will not be able to come back. I think the Georgian authorities should not have adopted that law. One day Georgia will need help and we will have to protect it, won’t we? Just remember Gelayev, when he and his fighters entered Abkhazia.
Which one is your homeland: Georgia or the Caliphate?
Our home land is the Caliphate. But we live in Georgia, this is our country. Unless Georgia confronts us, we will not confront it. But if it starts oppressing us, we will have to protect ourselves and our Muslim brothers will help us. Today they are going to Syria but if need be they will come here. I hope things will not go that far. We believe that the ISIL should start negotiations with Georgia.
About the immunity of those who have made the oath. Unless they were peaceful, things would have long been bad in Georgia.
Who will be the negotiator, Batirashvili?
Did you see him in Syria?
Yes, but I don’t want to talk about this.
The ISIL has proclaimed the establishment of a Gurjistan vilayet in the territory of Georgia. What does this mean?
This means that Georgia has become part of the Caliphate. But we will not force people to become terrorists. Our duty is to preach Islam in Georgia.
And what other plans do you have in the Caucasus?
We are planning to liberate Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan and other Muslim nations of the region. Georgia is also on the list as it was part of the territory of the ancient Caliphate. As regards Armenia, sooner or later, Islam will spread there too.
Are you in touch with fighters from the North Caucasus?
Recently the Georgian authorities arrested ISIL representative to Georgia Ayub Borchashvili. What do you think about it?
They are making things worse. They want to show the world that they are fighting terrorism.
What will you do if Borchashvili is sent to jail?
We have no right to do anything until we get instructions from the ISIL command. They will discuss this problem and will let us know.
You mean they are aware of what is going on in Georgia?
Of course, they are. The fate of each one who has made the oath is in their hands. So, they are obliged to help Borchashvili.
What plans do you personally have?
I wanted to find a job in Turkey, but the Georgian border guards did not let me there. They think I will go to Syria again. I am a young guy. I want to marry. What else can I do here in Pankisi. There is no job here.
If jobs are created, will young people still go to Syria?
Of course, they will. A few days ago one more young man went to Syria. No force can stop those wishing to go...