Ilyas Akhmadov: “Time will Fix Everything!”
Waynakh Online: Mr. Akhmadov, during recent years you have not appeared in public and we only heard from you again when your book was published recently. Could you tell us what you did in this time?
Ilyas Akhmadov: In 2005, I was dismissed from my political position by the order of Aslan Maskhadov’s successor Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev. Then I started my private life and used all this time to write this book with my co-author, Miriam Lanskoy. Finally, it was published a few weeks ago. Of course, during this term I did not lose my interest in my homeland and I have known what is going on in Chechnya and the North Caucasus.
Waynakh Online: As we know you are an author of a peace plan for the Russian-Chechen war. It did not have an influence on Western countries as expected, but it was criticized by the Chechen side. What would like to say about it?
Ilyas Akhmadov: Yes, I had some critics from the Chechen side. All my critics tried to accuse me because of some words inside of the text. However, you must understand in what situation this plan was written. You must know what was written and declared in this plan. I never said that Chechnya was a part of Russian Federation or that we would be a part of Russia. It was about the right of the Chechen people to build their own state. It was aiming to involve the Western side. You remember the terrible act in Nord-Ost in 2002. After it, nobody would like to speak about the situation in Chechnya and stopping the war. In the mean time, Russia was continuing to kill thousands and thousands civilians. And in that time when I tried to speak with any politician, they told me that I always spoke about stopping the war, but did I have details, did I have any viewpoints on this issue? Of course, then I discussed the issue with Aslan Maskhadov and this plan was written (The plan was written by my deputy Roman Khalilov and my part was the public promotion). I must add that my education is in political issues, as I have graduated from a political science faculty. Thus, I knew what I was talking about. I knew that this plan would not directly work, but it was a good opportunity to raise questions about stopping the war in Chechnya and finding political solutions for that conflict. The first time, such kind of initiative on the Chechen issue was supported by 130 members of the European Parliament.
Waynakh Online: Then, how do you evaluate the behavior of the United States or Western countries about the war in Chechnya? They preferred to close their eyes to the Russian-Chechen war. What do you think about it?
Ilyas Akhmadov: Unfortunately, it is about the cynicism of real politics. I had my own terrible experience when finding some influence in Western countries. But, I couldn’t succeed it. Especially after 2001, when the US and European countries started to think the Russian Federation was their companion in their fight against terrorism. However, terrorism that appears in the North Caucasus and terrorism that appears in the Middle East are completely different. These terrorists have completely different causes. Russia uses state terrorism against the civilian population and of course, for these reasons they have some kind of answers. The US or Western countries just closed their eyes with different purposes. Even today no one who occupies an official position in the US or Western Europe will ever use the terms “war crimes against civilian population” or “massive killings in Chechnya”. A quarter of the Chechen population was killed without any justice and all settlements were destroyed by Russia. In 1999, Russia had only one problem, it was Chechnya, but Russian policy manufactures terrorism and now they have problems in all of the North Caucasus. However, Russia has no program, mechanism or viewpoint to solve this problem. Recently, a bombing occurred in the Domodedovo Airport in Moscow. It comes from Russian policy, but Russia always accuses different groups or states of terrorism. This is not true. At the same time, everybody in Western countries understands that it is not true. But they continue their game with Russia because they need Russian gas, petrol or some transit to Afghanistan. I believe that the West uses these positions and pushes Russia to have huge problems like these.
Waynakh Online: Let’s talk little about your book. How can you describe your book to those who have not read it yet?
Ilyas Akhmadov: The book is mostly written about internal relations between Chechens and the problems of resistance. We tried to analyze what happened. Russia’s evil policy towards the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is known and understood, but our question is not about Russia. What kinds of problems occurred inside of our side, when all this separation inside of the Chechen movement started? Of course, it is also about our leadership. There are a lot of things written about Dudaev, Maskhadov and Basayev. But, they are just propaganda. I was an ordinary citizen and soldier at the beginning of the Russian occupation. I wasn’t close to Dudaev but I was close to Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov during first Russian-Chechen war. It was completely different from Russian propaganda or even some Western observers, how they seem. I tried to explain as much as possible about my experiences as a person who knew these people, how they made some decisions, how they acted in some situations and some particular events from my point of view at that time. Among my memories, we used Miriam Lanskoy as an external observer with some of her research on Chechnya. I think it looks readable. I hope it will work and people will understand what happened. As it was said by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who presented the book: “the nation who doesn’t know its past, will have never a future…”
Waynakh Online: After the presentation of your book, first the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the US and then a Russian youth movement organized a protest meeting in Moscow. What do you think about it?
Ilyas Akhmadov: It is the traditional imbecility of Russian bureaucracy. It is very funny, even during the Soviet periods, the Russian Foreign Ministry has never condemned a book’s publishing; it is the first time it happened. I have no explanation for it.
Waynakh Online: Could you describe the current situation in Chechnya?
Ilyas Akhmadov: The foreign observers and journalists who go to Chechnya speak only about newly built houses. But, this has no meaning for people and it doesn’t mean that Ramzan Kadyrov got more independence than Dzhoxar Dudaev or Aslan Maskhadov for. It is not true. Ramzan Kadyrov’s government is a Russian government. Ramzan Kadyrov is not an independent person, he is just a Russian clerk. And also now Ramzan Kadyrov is very convenient for everybody. For example, if we take the West, whatever happens in Chechnya, they only speak about Kadyrov and just criticize him. But Kadyrov didn’t kill all 250,000 people or did not destroy all the cities and villages in Chechnya. Because of Ramzan Kadyrov’s existence, the West has a good reason not to directly criticize Moscow, the Kremlin’s policy or Russian war crimes in Chechnya. But on the other hand, Ramzan Kadyrov is one of the best tools for the Russian colonial policy in the North Caucasus and especially in Chechnya. Today, the Chechen people have no rights in Chechnya. The Chechen population has only one right, which is to be killed without any justice. I don’t care about all these new houses, it is nothing for the people. Today in Chechnya, around 70% of the population has no opportunity to work. Also, I believe that the pro-Russian government in Chechnya has destroyed the Chechen mentality and Chechen traditions. But I want to repeat, Ramzan Kadyrov is just a tool in the hands of Russia, so it is not Ramzan’s policy, it is the policy of the Kremlin.
Waynakh Online: What do you think about the current problems within the politicians of Ichkeria side?
Ilyas Akhmadov: It is a typical problem between emigrated politicians. It is not something new, it is always seen between mass political emigrants. It is usual. I must point out that I am unhappy with the situation among Chechen politicians, but it is not a tragedy. Unfortunately, it works like this between all political emigrants after such kinds of events. However, time will fix everything. Now they have the opportunity to watch how all policies work in Western countries. However, solving these problems will take some time.
Waynakh Online: How do you see the future of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria?
Ilyas Akhmadov: I believe that someday, I don’t know when, but someday this conflict will be resolved. Of course, it depends on the Russian side, but at this moment I see no sign from them. Russia has no mechanism to solve problems, in the North Caucasus or in regards to the war in Chechnya. They don’t have any programs and view no results these issues. If you check the national policy of Russia, you will see clearly, nothing has changed in their politics over the centuries. But, as you see, it doesn’t work anymore. They claim Russians are superior in the Russian Federation. This has grown more acute under Putin. The hatred toward ethnic minorities pushes them away from Russia. You will remember what happened just a few weeks earlier in Moscow; all these fascists marched saying “Russia is for Russians!”. I don’t believe that Russia has real power in North Caucasus today. You see how many military troops are located in Chechnya and in North Caucasus. This is the symbol of Russia’s weakness.
Waynakh Online: For some years, you are also a member of new Chechen Diaspora in Western countries. What do you think about the situation of new diasporas? Do you think that new Diaspora members will be able to save their national identity, language and traditions?
Ilyas Akhmadov: First of all, in United States, we have a very small Diaspora. Mostly the people do not know each other. I know people who live around me, but as you know the United States has a large amount of territory and it is impossible to get in touch with everyone.
Of course, emigration is a hard experience, especially for the Chechen people, as members of the old Diaspora you must know from your parents what I mean. The Chechen people have a high opinion of close relationships, relatives and traditions. After terrible experiences in your homeland, you are thrust into new cultures all around the world. In this situation, it becomes a problem. On the other hand, we had already divided when we were in Chechnya. Some people continue to divide people in the diasporas.
I don’t want to say that there are just problems. When I look at what is going on in Western European countries where tens of thousands Chechen live, I see great things. For example, some of the diasporas managed to establish cultural organizations, with their events and activities. Also, I see that a lot of young Chechen men and women study in very famous universities and institutions. It is really unusual for us and it is wonderful. It is a great hope for our country and for our future.
Waynakh Online: Do you want to add anything or do you have a message for our readers?
Ilyas Akhmadov: Actually, if we think that many of your visitors are Diaspora members from Western European countries, then I just would like to say read and study as much as possible. The emigration is a terrible thing and we must be ready for its results. The most important thing is education. It was a big problem for Chechen people. I don’t mean that Chechen people dislike education or they aren’t educated people. I am simply speaking a reality, that they did not get the opportunity for good education in Soviet times or Czarist times. Chechen people were always under repression. Now it is a very good time. Everything is at our hands.
Waynakh Online: Mr. Akhmadov, thank you very much for sparing your time for our interview.