Rebel Hierarchy Changes in the Wake of Umarov’s Emirate Decree

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 6

Dokka Umarov’s infamous announcement declaring the formation of a new state structure, the Emirate, has been followed recently by a period of reflection and correcting the errors made by the rebel leader as a result of hasty concessions to the demands of Anzor Astemirov (aka Amir Seifullah), the leader of Kabardino-Balkar Jamaat “Yarmuk” (, November 20, 2007). For starters, the original version published and posted on many radical websites is now missing the sentence that named the United States, Great Britain, Israel and Europe as enemies of the newly formed Emirate. Perhaps one should assume that Dokka no longer views these states as enemies, which is a great first step. The new updated version reads: “All those who attack Muslims, wherever they are, are our common enemies. Our enemies include not only Rusnya, but all those waging war against Islam and Muslims as well” (, November 21, 2007).

In his statement, Umarov also appointed his front commanders as general leaders, that is, vakils of the Emirate. In response, Akhmed Zakaev accused him of destroying Ichkeria. To counter the allegations, the name of the Emirate in the revised statement now includes a parenthetical “Ichkeria,” which the authors apparently believe should address the charges of betraying the state for whose independence everyone fought and died for even before Umarov’s rise to power.

In this vein, it is also notable that the Karachai and Kabardino-Balkar Jamaats were merged into a single administrative subject—the vekalat of Kabarda, Karachai and Balkaria. One wonders whether this change was prompted by the flagging position of the Karachai Jamaat, which sustained significant losses as the result of police raids.

Additionally, if Kabardino-Balkaria was split along ethnic lines, why was Dokka Umarov’s decree silent on Cherkessia and Adygeya, considering that Ossetia and Nogai Steppe were each designated as a vekalat (Decree #5, “On Administrative and Territorial Structure of the Caucasus Emirate,” October 12, 2007). It seems a bit peculiar that the new structure omits territory previously considered to be in the jamaats’ field of activity. The absence of Adygeya and Cherkessia doesn’t translate into actual military losses because these localities have never formed ethnically based jamaats, but it does affect the propaganda line of the Emirate stretching “from one sea to the other” and makes less credible Umarov’s argument that the Emirate may threaten the safety of the Olympic Games in Sochi, the ancestral homeland of the Adygs.

The foreign policy appointments of the new Emirate are no less intriguing and important. Umarov has effectively fired his entire overseas representation – meaning the bureaucrats or diplomats who were based in Turkey and Baku and reported to Umar Dakaev (, January 13, 2008). The latter’s appointment was approved as recently as two months ago—while his nomination was dated September 2007, it was not published until December (, December 12, 2007). Umarov’s wrath was directed against one of his most trusted associates, who was supposed to oversee the Emirate’s activities in the entire foreign policy arena; a Minister of Foreign Affairs, of sorts, who was charged with monitoring all overseas representatives and making statements on behalf of the Emirate on foreign policy matters. Umar Dakaev was accused of negligence, and specifically of publishing Dokka Umarov’s decrees with some time delays, which Dakaev used to confer with everyone, as well as to soften the sometimes unfortunate language of the new Amir’s statements. Dakaev’s excessively soft touch was offensive to Dokka Umarov, and he replaced Dakaev with his one-time ideological rival Shamsuddin Batukaev, who along with other supporters of Akhmed Zakaev initially criticized Umarov’s declaration of the Emirate and sent Umarov an audio tape of his views in which he explained resistance movement leader’s errors (, January 1). In response, Dokka Umarov decided to co-opt Batukaev by recruiting him into his camp, and offered him a title as his General Representative, to which Batukaev agreed at once (, January 13). Umar Dakaev was made a deputy of the new General Representative.

Shamsuddin Batukaev is an interesting figure: he became famous during Chechen Republic President Aslan Maskhadov’s rule after arranging public executions for those who violated the Sharia law, which came as a shock to Maskhadov, who felt compelled to ban executions and unceremoniously strip Batukaev of his position. In Chechnya, Batukyev was known for his knowledge of the Sharia law and his unflinching support for rebuilding Chechnya as a purely Islamic society inspired by Salafi views. Batukaev’s newfound support for Dokka Umarov’s camp dealt a serious blow to the position of Akhmed Zakaev, who thought of Batukaev as a strong counterweight to radicals like Dokka Umarov and Movladi Udugov.

In turn, Batukaev terminated the appointments of one of the best-known Salafi ideologues and founders of the Islamic Revival Party in Chechnya, Islam Khalilov, and one of the better-known Urus-Martan Jamaat commanders, Uvais Akhmadov (, February 4). It is not clear yet whether this was done at Khalimov’s behest, or whether the new leader did not want to have a key member of the Udugov-Umarov camp working so closely with him. As recently as last year, before the Emirate was announced, Khalimov was in charge of the ideological front of the resistance and circulated a new ideological manifesto to his associates that would have united all Sufis, Salafis and those who stood apart, preferring to remain independent. In any event, his departure was not acrimonious, which means that he may still emerge in a different post within the General Representative’s office.

In contrast to Islam Khalimov, Uvais Akhmadov is not likely to end up with a new job in the Emirate due to a contentious dispute he started with Dokka Umarov. Akhmadov accused Umarov of betrayal and joined Akhmed Zakaev’s camp, which came as a surprise to many. In his tenure as a Urus-Martan Jamaat commander, Akhmadov was known for radical views and support of Salafi ideology; however, in his dispute with Umarov, he chose to side with the opposing camp and join the democrats.

Therefore, we can conclude that the Emirate machine is currently searching for ways to bridge the differences between both sides and emerge as a united force. It is no secret that the resistance movement was not uniformly supportive of the Emirate announcement and that a split in the ranks of the rebel fighters was likely. Yet the latest joint statements made by Dokka Umarov and field commanders from the Shali, Central and other sectors make it clear that even the dissenters are prepared to recognize Dokka Umarov as the new leader of the Emirate for the sake of standing united against the Russian army. Still, this recognition is not necessarily equal to their support of the idea itself, which means that this rift can and will be used against Dokka Umarov by the democratic wing, which is in critical need of supporters on the ground in order to avoid weakening its position vis-à-vis Umarov and his team of Salafis.