"History of Ignorant Travel" is a diary that was kept by a person, who had once decided to fight for the "Islamic State" (IS was recognized as a terrorist organization and banned in Russia) and who was personally convinced of falsity and perversity of many of IS' followers. The diary, telling about the author's unfortunate experience of taking part in the erection of Caliphate in Syria (until May 2015), about his custody in jail awaiting execution, about torture, and about a completely unexpected escape, is written in poor Russian; and its publication in the unedited form is impossible. Excerpts from the diary are presented in the below text of the interview. The interview was recorded in a number of phased and took a long time. The "Caucasian Knot" emphasizes that this publication is not aimed at any propaganda or counter-propaganda; its main idea is to present some little-known information about the organization banned in Russia and the evidence of the person, whose vision was undergoing significant changes.
We agreed to have a meting with the 21-year-old Furkat in the subway of one of European capitals. I did not know his phone number or his surname, only the fact that he had been in the "Islamic State" (IS), and that he writes in Russian with a lot of mistakes.
I assumed that he came from some Caucasian republic, and I imagined an adult male with a huge beard.
The guy proved to be a native of Central Asia, with a barely noticeable facial hair. None of his external parameters did not fit my idea of an IS militant.
Furkat got to Syria from Moscow. He left his education, when being in the second year of a higher school, got converted to Islam, began practicing namaz (prayer) and searching for answers to the questions about his role, place and mission, and found a way out only in taking up arms and "going to fight against the tyrant and dictator Bashar al-Assad."
His way to Syria was not fast, as for a few months Furkat tried to find an opportunity to go to the front; he even spoke openly addressing Imams at mosques and parishioners asking to help him to achieve his aim.
It is quite easy to imagine the reaction of the people, whom Furkat had addressed. They did not even try to dissuade him. They believed that he was a professional provocateur, therefore, they just pushed him away.
Furkat reached IS representatives through one of the groups in social networks; then he went alone to Turkey, where he was met right at the airport and shown the route to the Syrian border. He travelled alone, did not stop at transfer points, and crossed the border just in a field delineated with barbed wire; in doing so, he faced no particular obstacles.
Furkat left at home a note for his relatives, in which he asked not to look for him, and wrote that everything would be OK with him, and that it was his choice. His parents are still sure that he was killed. Furkat is in no hurry to inform them that he has got out. He fears that repressions and pressure on them may follow.
Furkat was keeping something like a diary of his stay in Syria, which tells in detail about the IS and its methods. This diary clearly shows the progress of an ordinary IS member from fascination to complete disappointment in the Caliphate. Multiple facts described by the author indicate double standards, the use of ordinary members of the IS as cannon fodder. Especially for the "Caucasian Knot", Arslan Koch and Grigory Kozlov questioned Furkat about the facts he mentioned in his diary. The check of some of them took about three months.
I became interested in Islam, watched online video about what is happening there, and finding out what they are fighting for. Videos said that there is the Sharia there, Allah's land, and that every Muslim should move there.
When I was watching videos, it seemed to me that all the Muslims should move to the land of Sham (Palestine, Israel and half of Syria). Videos were of very high quality and showed Bashar al-Assad's crimes against Muslims.
Indeed, it's true that Bashar al-Assad is committing tough things.
I graduated from secondary school, entered a higher school; I was a second year student of the correspondence department, when I left my education.
In Moscow, I was training in radio physics, mastering my profession: working with cables, etc.
There were no Muslims among my fellow students. Because of this, I began missing more and more classes; it was less and less interesting for me to contact them. I saw that I had nothing in common with my classmates. I didn't show anyone that I was interested in the situation in the Middle East, because in those days security services reacted very toughly to this topic; it was just at the time, when the flow to Syria was in full swing. Even if someone discussed the situation in Syria, I tried not to interfere, in order not to draw suspicion to myself.
I wrote a note to my relatives saying that I went away, asking them not to look for me, and that everything would be fine.
Of course, they did.
When I was planning to go there, I heard nothing about the IS at all.
I heard only about al-Qaeda and "Jabhat al-Nusra" (both are regarded terrorist organizations and banned in Russia, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"), and Saifullah Shishani.
I looked for my road for three months. I went to the mosque in Mira Avenue in Moscow and told the Imam that I wanted to get to Syria, and asked to send me there. They even kicked me out of there.
No, I thought that they are all like that, that they help. I don't know why I thought so, and didn't even realize that I put my safety at risk; and that they may detain me.
No, they, too, can't speak openly about many things.
I was not so stupid. In Moscow, there were no such friends, who knew that I was going there. There was a couple of persons, but I didn't talk openly even with them.
I had no acquaintances; I came up to every person; I even came up to one Caucasians once and asked him to help me to get into the Islamic lands, where I could freely practice my religion. He told me that he would help me; and I even began noticing that something was wrong when I met him – I felt that we were watched.
I noticed that I was shadowed.
I began looking the way through social networks myself.
Now it's easy. You just type the request "Syria"; and there almost half of the resources are Russian-speaking.
They didn't trust me at once. I said that I was physically strong, was engaged in wrestling. At first, they asked me questions on the Internet: why I wanted to go there; how I arrived at this idea; and what I needed it for. I answered.
They began suspecting me. I wrote them: why do you first call, and then suspect?
I was told that they could give me a plan-map. I said that I needed no guide, I'd get there myself. After that, they began trusting me. They said that once I get to Turkey I should make a telephone call, and they would meet me. I was so much eager to get there that I even sent them my passport, not even thinking that they may be in Syria, or that there may be an FSB agent on the opposite end of the wire.
They told me to fly to Istanbul and call before take off to a certain number; and I'd be met at the airport.
The guides offered to pay for my travel, but I refused, because I had some little money.
I had a return ticket. They thought that I was really going to have rest and relax.
It was in winter. I was in Turkey not for long; I was offered to stay for a couple of days in Turkey, but I refused. I wanted to get to Syria as soon as possible. Immediately after the airport we went to the shopping centre to buy everything what is needed in Syria (military uniform, flashlights, gloves, etc.). After that, we wanted to fly to the city, located near the Syrian border, but failed – there were no nearest flights; therefore, we had to go by bus to the nearest city to the Syrian border; and farther to the border – by taxi. There, we stayed in some house, and waited for the darkness and a signal from guides. Mostly Arabs were with me; only a couple of young Dagestanis and one elderly woman were from Russia. As far as I recall, she was also a Dagestani; she arrived to visit her 18-year-old son, and, as I understood, to try to take him back.
I was with a group, but for the first time Turkish soldiers caught all of us, about 12 people in total. I alone managed to escape from them. Then, they were all released.
It was dark; there were not so many border guards, about 3-4 people. When we reached the barbed wire, they began the capture, crying in Turkish "All down"; and the whole group followed the command. I didn't obey and ran back. I don't know, frankly speaking, why they had let me go; but then militants told me that it was just a show. Border guards did not catch anybody in fact.
No, they were very happy.
Abu Mukhammad al-Amriki, an Azerbaijani, who often appeared in the video. He was a military Amir of Saifullah Shishani's squad. When I crossed the border, they met me with a pick-up van.
I got to Syria in early December. A few days later, from the central base of Saifullah Shishani, we, new recruits, were sent closer to Turkey, to the place named Atma. The camp was located on the mountain; it was not fenced off, but the sentries were guarding it 24 hours a day. We slept in tents; received proper, usual home-cooked meals. There was no bath, there was a properly equipped shower; the base had obstacle lines.
When I got there, I immediately arrived at the central base of Saifullah Shishani.
Yes, I was able to talk to him. When I was brought to the base, he came up to me to get acquainted. It looked like he was warned about [me]; he knew where I was from. He asked me: "Why are you not in uniform?" And he ordered one militant to take me to the marketplace, and buy clothes for me. But I refused, because I already had the uniform, but I had just no time even to dress. Thus, we briefly got acquainted; he also said, "I'm happy with your arrival." I immediately noticed that he had no Islamic knowledge; he was an ordinary ignorant person. But he was very careful about his militants in terms of uniform, nutrition and attitude.
There were about 60-70 people, they were all Caucasians, mainly Chechens and Dagestanis.
There were many Chechens among bodyguards of Saifullah Shishani had; but I didn't see there any practicing Muslims at all. They didn't attend classes; everyone was laughing, enjoying life and happy about their soon arrival to paradise.
I almost passed the training. It consisted mainly of endurance training and learning how to handle a submachine gun.
I can't say that I learned too much. It was usual OFP (general physical training); we trained at obstacle lines, learned crawling among thorns, trained tumbling and climbing over the wall. We [studied] a little of urban tactics – how to pull out wounded persons and cover each other during operations.
Yes, they were instructing. One could choose their desired occupation – a machine gunner, an RPG launcher operator, a miner, or a sniper. We were basically trained as assault fighters. Visiting militants, those who had experience of Afghanistan or Waziristan (a mountainous region and a self-proclaimed unrecognized state in northwest of Pakistan near the Afghan border, – note of the "Caucasian Knot") were appointed as instructors.
In that time, Saifullah Shishani had got separated from Omar al-Shishani.
His unit was not so large.
About 100 people, many Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks. His detachment was called "Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar".
I came to Syria after Saifullah Shishani had separated from Omar al-Shishani.
After the death of Shishani, the squad was headed by an Uzbek Abu Ubaida al-Madani, whose murder was recently talked about, but I don't know how reliable it is. Already at that time there were almost only Uzbeks there.
When I was in Moscow, I got acquainted with him there. He also asked me questions, and checked me. But when I was with Saifullah Shishani, he was not such a reputable person.
When they announced the creation of the IS, all the Caucasians moved there; no more than 10% of Caucasians remained in the squad.
There were many reasons. Some did it, because of the outrage of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against alien militants. Many knew that sooner or later it was to start, because the FSA has nothing in common with Islam; they are usual democrats. And when the conflict began, Shishani had "slipped"; and militants had to leave him.
If someone wanted to talk to parents or urgently needed the Internet, every evening the instructor took two persons and drove them to the city, to the Internet club. Or one could ask for a permit and go out into the city.
As for communication within Syria, there are some difficulties: very seldom you can catch signals for mobile phones. [If you catch them, then] it's closer to the territories of Bashar al-Assad. In other areas connection is cut down; and in some regions, there are Turkish networks – closer to the border with Turkey.
In Iraq, there was no problem with communication; there, even 3G worked earlier. Now, all the towers of mobile operators are turned off in the territory of the entire IS – both in Syria and Iraq.
In Iraq, it is forbidden to use cell phones at all. We were told that because of 3G, drones pinpoint the coordinates; therefore, the Iraqi policemen of the IS take away phones, whenever they see them.
No problems both in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, in every city there are many local internet clubs, where you can buy Internet tickets and use the web. If such clubs are close to your home, you can buy tickets and access the Internet from your home; we all did it quite often. In the clubs, of course, the communication speed is not so strong, but they are selling fresh juices and fruits there. These Internet experts also have some software – you can call wherever you want and pay at the per-minute rate.
25 megabytes in the club are worth 100 Syrian liras (about 0.5 US dollars). A fruit cocktail – a big one, is about 200-250 Syrian liras (about 1 dollar). All websites are available; and there are no problems with queues, because a lot of Internet clubs are everywhere, almost at every corner. In order to install WhatsApp or Viber, or any social network, you give your phone to the owner of Internet club, and within half an hour they register it, by using some software, to some number. Most often, they use American numbers. They did this for about 2 dollars.
Almost every IS base has Wi-Fi. And portable radio sets are widespread; almost all the militants use them. But all IS groups have their own communication channels.
The issue of Takfir in Islam is the basis of religion. Without knowing the Takfir, you do not know who is a Muslim and who is an unbeliever. This is the basis of Islam, a very important point. There are two types of unbelievers: hostile and non-hostile ones.
In the territories that are liberated by Muslims there are local people who have no knowledge – they are unbelievers; they need teaching and explanations.
No, I just wanted to show that they are ignorant people.
They [commanders of squad and block-post] let them freely go back and forth, to the territory of Assad and back. Why don't they explain them that it is wrong?
No, that there is no third state. There are believers and unbelievers. But they treat them as Muslims. Local residents have taken the position of observers, the third party. They support those who are stronger and who win. In Islam, there is no third party; there only believers and unbelievers. The IS closed its eyes on all that; and it is also considered unbelief in Islam.
They, all the militants, treat them as ignorant Muslims. But how can a person without knowledge be a Muslim? You have to educate them.
By explaining the basics of religion, that Islam is the religion of monotheism. Polytheism and monotheism are incompatible. And that Sharia belongs solely to Allah. And explain in detail what the evidence means "There is no God but single Allah; and Mukhammad is Allah's Messenger." If a human understands the true Islam, he stops being a hypocrite.
That's what you think; but they have working marketplaces, supermarkets; they sell cocktails.
There are different methods. If they are explained the Islam, and they contradict and insist on their own viewpoints, they should be put to death. And there are, for example, Christians and Jews; they pay a tax, called Jizya (a per-person tax on infidels, – note of the "Caucasian Knot").
Those who pay taxes – you can't touch them. If a person pays his Jizya and lives there, you can't do any harm to him, because he is taken under patronage and will be protected.
I do not know the exact amount. In Raqqa there were Christians, for example, who paid taxes and lived peacefully; they could freely practice their religion at home.
Yes, there are cafés working there, marketplaces and even small shopping centres. And people usually live in their houses, unless they are completely destroyed or bombed; they didn't even leave from the battlefield. And the IS was not to move further, until it fully establishes Sharia in the occupied territories, if they are really fighting for Sharia. I sometimes didn't even understand what the IS was really fighting for.
City centres, marketplaces and bazaars are rarely bombed, except for aircrafts of Bashar al-Assad. He does not care; the main thing for him is to hurt as many people as possible; he is throwing bombs from his obsolete aircrafts to the left and to the right without any targets.
The IS suffers no special harm from them; local residents are suffering. Although locals got accustomed to the war; at one end of the street children are playing, while at the opposite end a shootout is taking place. But children often die from aircraft attacks and random bullets.
Poor people are often seen among locals; there are so many beggars. But there are plenty rich people there too.
Almost every Syrian city has a café, where they cook very good pizzas; they fry fish and sell various popsicles – all for very small money.
Many Syrians are engaged in extracting oil and so get their earnings. They are trading; they have even prestigious shops there – Jack Wolfskin, Adidas, etc. In the marketplaces, weapon shops are often met.
They sell pistols, submachine guns, grenades and military uniforms – all what is needed for the battlefield. Initially, submachine guns were very expensive; then, they grew cheaper. You can buy a new Kalashnikov for 1000 US dollars. There you may order different models of weapons; they are trying to find the guns you need.
A huge marketplace is in the city of Raqqa; you can find all you need for life there at low prices.
In Iraq, everything is more expensive and more modern. Mosul is a very "fancy" city; and everything there is expensive.
It isn't destroyed. Drones are circling in the sky, but, for some reason, they are not bombing.
Iraq, unlike Syria, has no problems with electricity; while in the latter, power is supplied for a few hours per day; therefore, many use generators. For absence of electricity, traffic lights are off, in large cities, such as Raqqa, there are huge traffic jams; and the IS had to put "living traffic lights" (traffic constables).
If we talk about local hospitals, there is no problem to find Russian-speaking doctors there. Many of them had earlier studied in Russia.
I was surprised when I learned that the doctors working in the territory of the IS at the end of every month go to Damascus to take their salaries from Bashar al-Assad. And then I found out that Bashar al-Assad pays salaries not only to them, but even to power plant workers and fire-fighters operating in the territory of the IS.
Syria, mainly, has its own currency; and Iraq has its own. US dollars are quite widely used. Once upon a time the exchange rate was 200 Syrian liras for 1 US dollar; but then the US dollar began growing up to nearly 300 Syrian liras. Despite this, foodstuffs are very cheap.
Everything is very cheap – fruits, vegetables, clothes.
If there is a very long queue to the bakery, and the people know that you are from the IS, of course, they will let you bypass the queue.
Each IS fighter receives 50 US dollars per month. If he has a family, the wife also gets 50, and each child gets 35 dollars. Occasionally, they may pay a reward of 100 dollars. Also, the IS provided some humanitarian aid (with flour, rice, vegetable oil, sugar, etc.). Fighters have very good nutrition; their bases are constantly supplied with meats, fruits and sweets. This is enough for many of them; therefore, they don't have to incur additional expenses.
I had difficulties with finances. The IS stopped paying me the money after I refused to fill in the form.
Well before the announcement of the Caliphate, we were given a form, where we were supposed to tell our biographies. I refused; and then I was told that the IS would not give me money. I said: "I don't want your 50 dollars," and went away.
Everything should be written into the form – from birth to arrival to Syria. One has to tell about the birthplace, address of residence, what books one has read, where he worked and what was doing in one's life.
It was necessary to write in detail, who helped one to get to Syria. At the end, one had to fill in his personal identification data, namely: the colour of eyes, eyebrows and hair; describe the lips, nose and face; to indicate the size of clothes, height, shoe size and the length of hair.
Amirs of the IS ordered everyone to fill in these forms. I didn't even read the form to the end; there were three pages of questions. I looked through the first two pages and was surprised. They asked first to fill in the day, month and year of birth. Then – where one was born, where he grew up and studied. Then, one had to write where one had worked before Syria, and what one had done, and what profession one had. What Islamic books one had read, and why had one decided to come to Syria, whom one knows and how many acquaintances one has there. And then, one had to describe almost all the organs that a human body has.
In the IS, they have intensively begun setting up paper control, both for the militants, and for the local population. If one wants to drive from one province to another, he needs a permit from Amir. Initially, they didn't control it very tightly; one could somehow escape it; but gradually began to tighten up the system.
In order to try anything, for example, extract or transport oil, local residents have to take a permit from local Amir in the form of a paper with a seal.
If foreign fighters want to receive money from somewhere, they get in touch with a guide. The guide receives the money and transfers it through militants-newcomers. If there are people who want to send money outside Syria, they are often met, they agree with someone; and he sends money from "outside" to the destination; and then one pays the money "inside".
After all, the IS provides money to people who want to bring in the family; and these people should send money to their families somehow.
The attitude of local people to incoming militants... is different. Some locals are happy; they say that liberators have come; others say that it would be good without them (it is stated especially by those who had lost their jobs).
In Mosul, people are wildly looking at visitors; there are very few of them there; probably, they haven't got used to them yet.
Locals are still afraid to say something bad about Bashar al-Assad; or they think that Bashar al-Assad will return their conquered lands; or they are afraid that a spy may be listening.
Very many people are bribed by supporters of al-Assad, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (KWP) and the FSA to provide information. Often locals were caught who planted small square chips for pointed airstrikes; of course, they did for small amounts of money.
They said that in the FSA they are all Kafirs (unbelievers). And then, they changed their opinion. Kuwaiti asked why they had changed their mind. Kuwaiti just wanted to argue with them, but they killed him. You shouldn't do it under Islam. Because of this case, the IS executed many people.
He left Syria. They said that he was caught in Turkey, and then released again. And they say that he continues working for the FSB. They didn't touch him; he was in the squad of Abu Khanifa Dagestani. This group consisted only of Caucasians. It surprised many people that he was not touched. In Syria, there are a lot of groups that before the announcement of the Caliphate could go there and create own group; and nobody could say anything to them.
Because they considered them to be unbelievers.
But they were not Muslims.
Islam says that the only true religion is Islam.
They paid taxes and lived freely.
I don't know the reasons; I'm hearing from you that he had beheaded the priest. After Banat was arrested by Abu Omar al-Shishani, who was already then gaining force, he publicly repented of his excessiveness.
And as I heard, this man was accused of espionage... I don't know the reasons; I'm just hearing from you that it was he who beheaded the priest. As far as I know, they had imprisoned him for accusing Omar al-Shishani of disbelief.
I got there when the massacre began between the FSA and the IS. We were taken to the base of the "Jabhat al-Nusra". That base was more fancy and advanced. It had enhanced security, a large territory and stricter discipline.
With Saifullah, I was trained for 15 days; and he said that we would soon join the "Jabhat al-Nusra", so we'd be taken to the city of Azaz. We went there; there were many Arabs there, about 70 people. We underwent training there.
OFP, we learned how to capture, to storm a house; and then a massacre broke out there.
In the city of Azaz, a battle began between the IS and the FSA. Gunfire was heard and explosions near the base. We were surrounded. Militants of the FSA began setting their posts everywhere and arrest all foreign militants. After we were surrounded, people from the "Jabhat al-Nusra" brought us through checkpoints of the FSA and took us to their central base in Syria. And we waited there until Saifullah Shishani came and took us from there.
In the morning, we gathered together, about 13 people, and decided to leave. When we were leaving, they began criticizing and getting angry at us, saying that we were troublemakers.
There were about 30 Caucasians. And the squad itself was an assault one; it fought in the forefront. It had Dagestanis, Karachays and Kabardins. It was a pretty serious grouping; the squad was considered among best warriors in the IS.
There were many of them, and more in the IS.
Chechens occupy various managerial positions there. Omar al-Shishani was a military Amir; Abu Abdurakhman Shishani, a brother of Omar al-Shishani, was the Chief Amir of the IS for managing the security service among Russian-speaking militants; Saifullah Islam Shishani was Amir of the city of Beyzhi (in Iraq), etc. 99% of Chechens got to Omar al-Shishani.
Prior to the proclamation of the Caliphate in the IS ("Caucasian Knot": On June 29, 2014 IS units captured the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, and proclaimed the Caliphate) were the only Arabs. Then they started to gather people dramatically. And all Caucasians from the "Imarat Kavkaz" (recognized as a terrorist organization and banned in Russia), the detachment Saifullah Shishani and "al-Nusra" began moving into the IS.
They [before] were more numerous there; but now there are still enough of them there. The FSA is the chief financier of such groupings. The help is negligible, but it is there.
They just live there, doing nothing, occasionally making loud appeals. Four years ago, when the FSA captured Aleppo; and now everything is the same there.
I myself don't understand the goals of these groups. They didn't even condemn the sale of forbidden things in the Islamic territories. They are not practicing Sharia and say that at first Bashar al-Assad should be overthrown, and then – the Sharia should be set up. There are no such things in Islam.
In the IS; I just spent some time with Saifullah Shishani, and immediately got into the IS.
Because of my doubts about their ideology, I tried not to take part in their operations.
I tried by all means not to take part. But I couldn't do it for a long time; they began suspecting me.
First, they spread rumours that in some 15-20 days we would attack some city. They didn't specify the exact date. By the deadline, all the militants are ready at bases. Suddenly, cars are driving up, and we are told: all jump, and we're going. I refused, because I had doubts about their ideology. If I die in ignorance, all my deeds would be in vain. I wanted to know what I'm going for, what the ideology of the IS was. For so many people this question remains open.
Before the Caliphate, when the IS announced its territories, it was during Ramadan in 2014; and some 5-6 months before it was not too difficult, they called everybody [to join]. And many small groups joined them, while sticking to their ideologies. Even Turkish groups came; and the IS agreed to everything. Thank to that, they gained their membership.
When they announced the Caliphate, it became difficult. They put their block-posts everywhere, border guards, paper control, questionnaires, up to description of the colour of eyelashes; they took fingerprints. The IS began introducing the control system, the control, and to go from one city to another, it was necessary to take a paper with the seal – a permit. Without it, they already began putting people to prison.
People take risks, but leave the territories. If they a runaway in the IS, they certainly execute him; and if the authorities (FSB, NSS (National Security Service), etc.) catch a runaway in another country, they imprison him for an essential term. But despite this, people take the risk and run away... The IS is one of the most dangerous sects – Murjites. This sect perceives a part of the Scripture, and doesn’t perceive the rest of it.
No, there is no such rule.
At first, they didn't notice it. Then, they looked more attentively, and began asking questions. And then, they threw me into prison and were about to execute me.
Now the IS has launched its system; they call it Sharia training; and already there they say what is forbidden to do.
From inside, not all of them declare the Takfir. They do not believe that if someone has not sworn, he quits the Islam.
We should explain people that they went astray. We are not able to do something now. All the groupings went astray; they act contrary to the Koran and Sunnah; they make mistakes.
The flow doesn't stop; they somehow get there.
No, this is one of the key figures in the IS. He is the most influential person. Abu Maryam is in the "al-Nusra." Abu Bakr goes with essential guard; a special SWAT unit guards him; he is the head of the Sharia Commission of the IS.
I was myself interested in this issue. Until now, I have no answer. The oath is not the point here. The point is in disagreement in ideas. If now "Jabhat al-Nusra" swears to the IS, they must renounce the FSA, from any friendship with them.
They will have to renounce all and fight with everyone, with whom the IS is fighting.
I got into jail, when I returned from Iraq to Syria. It turned out that I was already searched by the "FSB" of the IS. The central prison was in Raqqa. A former football stadium was converted into a jail. You know how the basement looks like: it’s damp and cold. The whole basement is built of marble stones. The prisoners were kept in the basement; there were a lot of prisoners. It has approximately 10 cells and 6 or 7 dungeons. The prison is tightly guarded. They kept there about 150-200 prisoners. Half of them were foreign militants, and half – local residents.
Djambulat Mamaev was in one cell with me, when I was arrested by special services of the IS. The prison was called "the 12th point". He was brought to our cell; it was called "4th room" – the cell for persons sentenced to death.
When I was detained, they brought me by deception to a large cottage; I was told: "Amir of Raqqa wants to talk to you." Then, by threatening with submachine guns, they forced me into the basement, which was already a prison. It was a tiny call and a toilet without a door and anything. In the evening of the same day, masked men came and said: "Get out; we transfer you to another prison." They handcuffed and blindfolded me and took to another prison. It was a terrible prison, with surveillance cameras everywhere. And they carried a lot of torture there. I was once questioned there; by bringing me out with my eyes blinded and in handcuffs.
They brought me into the interrogation cell and started asking about how much IS members I had killed, whether I had moved Takfir against the IS, whether we wanted to revolt against the IS, etc. They accused me of grave crimes. After about 15 days, I was transferred to another prison, where cells were more populous. This was the central prison of the IS – in the basement of the stadium in the city of Raqqa. All of these prisons were in Raqqa.
There were many people in this cell. We were lying on one side because of little space – 15-17 people in a small cell. Many people in this cell were accused of espionage, some – of being foreign agents, some – of handing down the Takfir against the IS, and some who wanted to rebel against the IS. Frankly speaking, many of these people just wanted to leave the territory of the IS. I don't know who was released from that cell. Many were taken away; they said that they would release them; but then I saw them on video executed by the IS. The only one whom they released was a SWAT fighter (former), a Kadyrov's man, because he spoke openly and confessed of everything.
Chechen Amniyat (security) agents treated him differently, politely, whatever he asked they brought to him. This Kadyrov's man got into the "4th room" by accident: other cells were overcrowded; therefore they put him into our cell.
They have their own bases, but they try to remain in shadow; they always go without beard and are wearing masks. Many of them are rooted into military squads and work there; they are watching who says what. But there is no order in prisons, the law of Allah is not used; and the man starts understanding there that these people have nothing to do with Sharia.
Everyone who didn't confessed of presented charges was tortured. We called that prison the "6th division" because of tough torture.
I was in the "4th room" for about 60-70 days. Then, I was transferred for some time to another prison near Raqqa, as they said, because of some captured spy who had planted chips for the guidance of bombs and shells; the spy said that soon they would be bombing there too. We were happy: bombing is better than dying slowly and painfully. Some 17-20 days later, they returned me back to the central prison, "the 12th point" (into the basement of the stadium). Later, when they were already in need of militants, they placed me into another cell; probably not just to kill, and to try using me in their own interests. I learned in prison that the IS had not released anyone who moved Takfir against them.
He openly didn't say that he was accused of spying. I told him that I considered them astray, because their deeds were contrary to Koran and the Sunnah. He said he also thought so.
Every week some people came; they put down our names, asked how many days we were sitting, and what we were accused of. One day Djambulat told inspectors that he didn't know why he was in prison. They answered: "Don't you know that you're a spy." After they left, I asked him, and he told his story. Human mind can't even imagine what he had described, but when I saw all the wounds on his body, I had to believe him.
I, too, was interested in it. Until I saw their methods, I could not even imagine it. I was surprised at his story, but when I saw his wounds, I believed him... They took Mamaev away when I was there; he was killed. He arrived in Syria by himself; the FSB didn't send him. If he had been with his family, then after the mourning period, the woman would have been forced to marry.
When at the second interrogation they asked me whether I had spoken against the IS, I replied that I did, because I knew that they would force me to confess.
He tried to get hired by the FSC for four months. Then, when he was already in the phase of hiring, he resigned and began studying Islam. He said that he resigned because of this. Sergey immediately said that he was a former FSB agent. He was in the Omar al-Shishani's grouping.
Did Omar al-Shishani believe him?
He put him into custody, in order to examine him. He was in jail for four months. When clashes broke out between the FSA and the IS, they let him go; and when they made their way through the encirclement, he was in the forefront. I saw a gunshot wound in his stomach. And then, they left him alone. Chechens were unable to prove that he was still working for the FSB. Omar al-Shishani said that once there were no proves, he should be released. When Chechens approached him, they said that they would ill achieve his death.
If I had not confessed, I would have been tortured. I have scars from handcuffs remaining on my wrists (shows). They handcuffed me very tight, and additionally roped my hands with plastic bands very tightly. Prison is a very terrible life.
On that day, when they started bombing Kobani, and we were in Raqqa, in the basement, they asked me what I wanted?
I said that I wanted to fight in Allah's way. It was important for me to come out and explain to my comrades what was going on there. They brought an agreement to me, where it was written that I should not do certain things, should not call upon anyone, and I should not explain the errors of the IS.
It was written there that I should not explain the error of the IS, say that they are against the Koran and the Sunnah, that they fail to observe the Sharia law; that I should just fight. They said, choose, we'll send in the first row, in 10 days. On the day when they started bombing Kobani; and with the help of Americans, [Kurds] captured the city, they needed soldiers then... And then I ran away from there; but how I did it, I don't want to say.
Those "FSB agents" from the prison, who also asked for that – they were not sent. They were told that the right to make a suicide bombing should be deserved.
They have many errors. They are misguided (astray) people. They betray the law of Allah and don't follow the Sharia. They set up people, falsely accuse them, and knock out confessions... There behave dishonestly, but Islam is the religion of justice.
Abu Akhmad, an Uzbek, who was with me; he studied in Egypt. He came there to call people to join the IS. His house was blown up. His squad was to go to Iraq, but they didn't want him to go there and say about IS' errors. Russian and Chechen Amniyat agents (secret service of the IS, – note of the "Caucasian Knot") blew up his house; and before that, in the evening, they took him away; and then we were shown a film that allegedly 12 local residents were executed for blowing up that house. As if they had confessed; although the agents themselves blew it up. Under torture the necessary confessions were knocked out of those people. It is very well seen with the naked eye, whether people say what they are dictated or not.
In prison, I saw a doctor; he was arrested because he refused to work for free; and that's why the IS had arrested him. They don't treat each other as Muslims. The "Jabhat al-Nusra" and the "Jaish al Hur" (FSA) together, they need some modern Islam, as they say.
Such stories had happened before the Caliphate. But simply those guys, who go there, do it resolutely. They wouldn't let the father take away his son. They'll try by all means to make the father to stay there.
As I understood, those, who go there, have no intention to return. I saw just a couple of Chechens, who said that their families were not with them, and stayed in Turkey.
They are not strong enough to return to Russia. They have huge losses every day. For their PR purposes they may make an appeal on the video, stating that they would go to Russia to take revenge, but these are just empty words.
It's simple. They don't treat each other as Muslims there.
There is no such notion in Islam as "strategic alliance" (at the expense of ideology).
It's easy to get to Syria; however, as to the mountains, firstly, it is difficult to get there; and, secondly, people can't find the way. It's not so easy. I asked many Caucasians why they didn't fight there; they answered that, in general, if there are any militants in the mountains, nothing is heard about them; and it is not so easy to join them.
My personal opinion is that it would not be good for the IS if they committed acts of terror.
It is very doubtful. There are no clear indications that they had done it. They knew exactly that if this has been done, Turkey would close the border. It's not beneficial for them.
I don't know that. Only very close people (to the command of the IS) may know that.
I don't know who is behind the IS. I began doubting that this is an Islamic organization; and nobody has ever seen Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Only once, and the video was of very poor quality, and then never again. I asked everybody, but no one had ever seen him. Why should a man hide to that extent? Why are there no new videos?
These are stars of the IS; they are professional actors. My housemate, when I lived in the city of Tabka, was a rapper from Germany – Abu Talkha al-Almaniy. And those men I haven't seen. Nadir arrived in Syria after my escape from the country.
Yes, it's the same everywhere. If one could freely practice his religion, no one would have to go away. Now, there are very few people who understand the truth; they could learn themselves and teach others.
Many are involved. The IS has a good position; when they prepare people for this, they entice them with paradise; that there will be hawras (houris), etc. I don't deny this, if they were on the truth. They don't think that if they die astray, it will not happen. They are convinced that they will surely get to paradise.
For example, Abu Bakr al-Qahtani (a preacher from Saudi Arabia, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"). He has a very high authority. Some other people from Iraq came to talk to me. I was with my eyes blinded. Even we thought at first that it was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but it was not him but the right hand. And then I saw him once, when Abu Bakr al-Qahtani began explaining our mistakes.
He could not refute us, but we were silent, listening. There were Azerbaijanis also, who were executed, they were in our cell; it was a well-known execution.
They were tortured; they wanted to leave Syria; they saw errors of the IS and wanted to leave it; they were caught at the border and forced to confess that four men had plotted a putsch in the IS.
I witnessed how one Chechen opened a window in the cell and threw a piece of paper to one of them, saying: "Learn it, you'll say it tomorrow." And there were quite a lot of things: that he had made explosions, planted mines, and poisoned people. He said all that in the video. It was all in that piece of paper. I told him, if you don't say this, you'll be immediately executed. The IS told him that in the end he would say after confession that he repented, and he would be pardoned. And then they just cut the end of the video, and execute him.
When Djambulat (Mamaev) was tortured, he asked why they were applying torture, because in Islam it is strictly prohibited. They told him that they tortured only those, in whose guilt they were 100% sure.
Anyone is unable to withstand torture; he'll say anything. This is the purpose of torture.
Basically, ordinary supporters are not aware, except for Amniyat agents. And they take not very smart people there, those, who do not ask a lot of questions... They have no pity, excessive cruelty. This is just a job for them.
Members of the "Jabhat al-Nusra" were outraged by these tortures. And those videos that were released by the IS, we haven't considered them popular; but later we learned that the world is watching them a lot; and they cause resonance. For Syria, it's a standard situation.
Every Friday there are executions in the centre of Raqqa: spies are caught or someone else. It causes no resonance already; it's a routine process.
I have no such information. This is disinformation. Djambulat said that during his interrogation they switched on spotlights, and thus recorded videos. Generally, each IS group has several media professionals. They don't fight. These are people keen in filming, editing and computers. Their job is just to take pictures, even in combat; they get into battle with cameras on their helmets, and thus make filming.
They need the amount and popularity. For the capture of a spy, they pay 5000 US dollars. And this is a business; therefore, Chechens and local intelligence services are working hard. They pay nothing to others. Young people come – they are sent to military operations, they use them, and get rid of those who understand a lot. And those who ask few questions – they cherish such guys. Many people who want to get out of the IS, are killed on charges of espionage and apostasy.
All the actions, the killing of Djambulat, etc., are filmed in that prison "Point 12". I feel pity about these people, because they had come to their conviction and got under the hot hand. The IS is not ruling according to Sharia, otherwise, everything would have been different. They take some territory, and without establishing Sharia there, move further. If they really had wanted it, they would have first set Sharia there.
In Raqqa they pay the Jizya and live peacefully.
I've never seen anything of the kind, and only heard on the news. In Iraq and Raqqa it happened that they blew up Shiite monuments.
I saw how they destroyed the statue of al-Assad in Raqqa. In Islam there is nothing of the kind; it is considered an icon there. There is a strict ban, and it's well that they follow it.
The IS is breaking everything, but the grave of Sheikh Suleiman, which was on the Turkish-Syrian border – all these years they didn't touch it until recently, when it was taken away by Turkish soldiers. In general, they had guarded the mausoleum; and nobody ever touched them.
The IS is practicing Sharia, when they need to, and when it's profitable; and when it's unprofitable – they don't practice Sharia; they close their eyes. Of course, all the commanders were aware about the mausoleum, but didn't pay attention. The IS pursued the policy in its favour through unbelief, if viewed from the side of the Islamic world.
If someone had told me prior to Syria that such things happen there, I would have never believed it. Now I understand that they [the IS] have nothing to do with Islam; and they are very far from the truth. They execute people, because they can't overturn their arguments. It's easier for them to execute. They were going to execute me too.
I'm afraid that this will just make her feel this pain. I am being searched by IS members; I permanently receive threats; I have already changed a few phone numbers. I am afraid that my parents will be persecuted because of me. I'm already counting down my life not in years, but in hours. I would like very much to see my mother; my father has died. I don't seem to live, I just exist.