Akhmed Zakayev: “Medet Onlu was Indispensable for us…”
Medet Onlu, Honorary Consul of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Turkey, was assassinated on May 22, 2013 in his office. On the first anniversary of his death, the monthly Turkish language Chechen magazine, “Marsho” conducted a special interview with Prime Minister Akhmed Zakayev.
Marsho: Mr Prime Minister, how and where did you meet Medet Önlü?
Akhmed Zakayev: I met Medet Onlu in 2001 in Istanbul, Turkey, while I was at an official visit on behalf of our President Aslan Maskhadov, which was the first one since the beginning of the Second Russian-Chechen war. The reason for my visit was related to the Chechen asylum seekers who began to arrive in Turkey to save their families from the Russian aggressors, whom had been given the task to destroy as many Chechen civilians as possible, by Putin. Upon my arrival in Turkey, I first visited Aslanbek Dandiyev, head of the Department of Tourism and Youth Policy, who was taken from Chechnya just sometime before me due to his injuries. During our conversation, he advised I meet with Medet Onlu, a patriot of the Chechen people, descendant of muhajirs who emigrated from Chechnya to the Middle East after the end of the Caucasian-Russian war in the 19th century. According to Aslanbek, Medet had good connections in the governmental circles in Turkey.
I called Medet and was in Ankara, but on the second day of our conversation he came to Istanbul. And thanks to Medet, I managed to solve not only the issues related with the Chechen asylum seekers, but also very important topics concerning the Chechen resistance. He arranged for me to meet with the Minister of Internal Affairs of Turkey and Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. I am giving this information to make it clear how important a role Medet played in Chechen-Turkish relations.
Marsho: Can you describe your first impressions of Medet Onlu?
Akhmed Zakayev: From the very first moment of our meeting, I believed in the sincerity of Medet. I testify that Medet was a true Muslim, a good citizen of Turkey, a great patriot and worthy son of the Chechen people. Immediately after our meeting, Medet introduced me to his family. He told me that thanks to his grandmother and mother, he tried to stick to Chechen traditions and etiquette since his childhood. Medet told me that in the 1990s when he heard about Djokhar Dudaev and how Chechnya regained its independence, he vowed to devote his life to the cause of independence for Chechnya and strengthening the Chechen state. From that time, he asked the Almighty to give him strength to walk this path. Then, Medet began to actively prepare himself for inclusion into the Chechen problem: he studied the Chechen language, and thus he learned it, but not only to speak brilliantly, but also to read and write competently.
Marsho: Medet Onlu was the Honorary Consul of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Turkey, but what was his role in Turkey and in the Chechen struggle?
Akhmed Zakayev: As a person who was directly involved in the military and political developments in and around Chechnya over the last 20 years, I may testify that Medet made a great contribution to the struggle of the Chechen people for freedom and independence. As a person, he selflessly helped his people; and as an officer of the ChRI, he was a loyal patriot of our country.
He was appointed as the Honorary Consul of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria on my recommendation. And he carried it worthy of the title. The work that he carried out in his post was impeccable. Neither President A.Kh. Sadulaev, nor do I have subsequent reason to make any remarks to him. We can say that he gave 24 hours a day to his work.
With the death of Medet, the Chechen people lost a worthy son and a patriot, the Chechen state lost its executive and diligent worker; adding this, we can say that the Chechen asylum seekers in Turkey have lost a man who could come to their aid at any moment; but besides of all that, I have lost a trusted friend.
Marsho: Nearly 1 year has passed since the assassination of Medet Onlu, but Turkish authorities have failed to find the hit-man and instigators. What do you think about this?
Akhmed Zakayev: Our enemies encroached on the life of Medet, well aware that they inflicted a painful blow on the entire Chechen national liberation movement. Although it is argued that no one is irreplaceable, in the case of Medet, I would argue that he was indispensable for us.
It is a fact that the Turkish authorities haven’t arrested the killers of Medet, and I believe that politics are involved because from the very beginning, for the investigators, it is clear that this murder was committed by members of the Russian secret services, which is the Russian state. They have already gathered all the evidence. However, on the basis of political expediency, the Turkish authorities are silent about it. But I am sure that the Turkish authorities are making a mistake while they do not disclose the true customers of the crime. Any economical and political interests can not be more important than the life of Turkish citizens and the lives of those who took refuge in Turkey. It isn’t a secret that in recent years, political assassinations are regularly committed in Turkey, and it certainly has hit the image of the Turkish state. But it is – a topic that can be discussed for a long time, and for this reason I am not going to dwell on it.
Marsho: Mr Prime Minister, do you want to transmit any message to the diaspora in Turkey?
Akhmed Zakayev: I want to say that all of our sacrifices, loss and deprivation will not be in vain, and the Almighty will reward us due to our patience and our fortitude. I do not even doubt for a minute that Russia will withdraw from Chechnya and from the Caucasus, because the vector of development of global processes inexorably moves developments in this direction. The aggression against Ukraine, it is not an activity of the Russian empire, not the revival of its former power, but the last convulsions before its death.
Especially I would like to appeal to the Chechen youth who were born and matured in Turkey in emigration. I want to encourage our young men that they are not allowed to involve themselves in various conflicts as “cannon fodder”, but they must devote their time and energy on studies. And if anyone of them want to study military affairs, it is best to acquire this knowledge in the military academies in Turkey and the highly skilled Turkish army.
Marsho: Mr Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time and your answers.
*Interview was first published by the monthly Chechen magazine “Marsho”, translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco.