Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 7

The separatist Chechenpress website on February 11 posted a video of separatist president Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev reading a statement in Chechen. In the statement, which was credited to the Daymohk information agency and accompanied by a written Russian-language translation, Sadulaev said he wanted to “clear up our goals and tasks, around which there has, of late, developed a discussion that is leading us away from our Jihad.”

Sadulaev first addressed the issue of the separatist constitution. He noted that article one of the constitution, which was adopted in 1992, states that the “Chechen Republic is a sovereign and independent democratic legal state created as a result of self-determination of Chechen people.” Later, as Chechen self-determination developed, Sadulaev said, “it became necessary to bring the state’s basic law in full accordance with the norms of Islam. That work began during the first president of ChRI [Chechen Republic of Ichkeria] Djokhar Dudaev, with the declaration of Jihad in the fall of 1994 and the start of the work of the Sharia Courts in the autumn of 1995. Under Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, the judicial system completely switched over to Sharia law. Aslan Maskhadov in 1998 brought the work of the state structures in accordance with Islam, and on February 4 1999 proclaimed the complete switchover to an Islamic form of governance. A state commission was created for the development of an Islamic constitution with the participation of all branches of power, scholars and legal experts.”

According to Sadulaev’s account, work to bring the Chechen constitution into full conformance with the norms of Islam was completed at the ChRI Great Majlis Shura in the summer of 2002. Article one of the constitution was revised to read: “The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is a sovereign, independent Islamic legal state created as a result of self-determination of Chechen people. The source of all decisions made is the Quran and Sunna.”

In his statement, Sadulaev next dealt with the ChRI Majlis Shura, which, he said, was created as the “future supreme organ of state power (parliamentary government). It is intended that the institution of the presidency will be abolished, [and] the head of state will be the Emir of the ChRI Majlis Shura.” Elections for that body, he said, will be carried out according to an Islamic principle, “which approximately adheres to the U.S. system of elections (the system of electors)” [meaning the Electoral College]. The completion of work on this system is planned for “the end of the war,” Sadulaev said.

The Chechen separatist leader’s statement also dealt with, among other issues, freedom of speech. “Islam recognizes the impossibility of building a legal state without acknowledging freedom of speech and constructive criticism, but categorically forbids blasphemy or the propagandizing of debauchery, violence, [or] racial or religious intolerance,” he said. “Public organizations and individuals are free to express their opinion on any issue concerning the vital functions of the state and society without resorting to ad hominem arguments or hurting the honor and dignity of an opponent.”

Sadulaev also touched on the issue of a Majlis Shura of the Caucasus. “Today, in a century of globalization and with the acceleration of the processes of integration, it is above all those who have a commonality of interests and values who are uniting,” he said. “The peoples of the Caucasus have common history, a common struggle for freedom and independence, a common religion, common ideals and values. It is international practice, and a striking example of that is the unification of Europe.” In the future, he said, “there are plans for the creation of a Majlis Shura of the Caucasus [and] a Shura Alimov of the Caucasus, and for the creation of a confederative state of the type of the European Union.” Attempts by the Kremlin “to portray the natural desire of the peoples of the Caucasus to unite in order to throw off the imperial yoke of Russia as a threat to the whole world are mendacious and futile,” Sadulaev added.

Finally, Sadulaev made comments apparently connected to the ongoing dispute between the radical wing of the Chechen resistance, represented by Movladi Udugov, and the moderate wing, represented by Akhmed Zakaev (see Chechnya Weekly, February 9). “Enormous work has been carried out over 15 years in the matter of strengthening freedom and establishing an independent Chechen Islamic State,” he said. “And this work is being carried out today. Thus today all mujahideen are joined in a single structure, together are waging war on the path of Allah, on the path of building a full-fledged Islamic state. And on that path, the mujahideen, by the grace of Allah, are trying in everything to adhere to Sharia, to adhere to the rules and norms of behavior of Islam…and to strengthen our unity. And it would be very good if all of our brother and sister muhajirs [refugee, immigrant or emigrant] located outside Nokhchich’o [Chechnya-CW] adhered the same way. But even more important today is to make clear to all muhajirs, to everyone who is not taking active part in combat operations, who are not openly fighting in jihad, [that] the mujahideen have the advantage over the muhajirs. And all muhajirs should know that they are assistants and advisers to the mujahideen, and not their superiors. And if each observes their obligations and knows their place, then we will have mutual understanding, harmony and a speedy victory.”

Sadulaev, it should be noted, interspersed his points with quotations from the Quran.