Friday, December 30, 2005

Chechnya and Jordan: the Ethnic Factor

The Prague Watchdog has an interesting article on the subject of Jordan and Chechnya - An Unquestioned Relationship:
...the experience of the Chechen community in Jordan was very different from that of the ethnic groups in other Middle Eastern states precisely because ethnic communities in other Middle Eastern states were not able to preserve their cultural identity due to nationalist political agendas; whereas the experience of Chechens in Jordan was based on a recognition of difference, rather than an enforced social, political and cultural integration.

The different experience of ethnic groups in the Middle East can, therefore, be used to explain the significant role of Jordanian Chechens in the two Russo-Chechen campaigns in the 1990s. As we have noted it is clear that a substantial support network also existed in other countries such as Turkey, while Jordan played an increasingly important role.

With this in mind, we suggest that the Jordanians who participated in the two Chechen conflicts can be divided as follows: first, into limited numbers of Jordanian Arabs (when compared with other Arab volunteers from Gulf States) who travelled to Chechnya from Afghanistan with the likes of Ibn Khattab. And second, into groups of ethnic Chechens in Jordan, who were motivated by national causes, rather than religion. In the latter case, it is important to note that few if any Chechens were members of Islamist movements before travelling to Chechnya, even though a number did join radical groups such as Jamaat Islamayia whilst in the North Caucasus. In particular, this sheds light on the role of the alleged recruiter Fathi, indicating that he did not try to recruit Chechens from Jordan, but instead relied on his relations with foreign fighters in Afghanistan. This goes some way to indicate how radical Salafist ideas became increasingly influential, particularly after 1995, and how important figures played a role in polarizing the war-ravaged community of Chechnya.

A final point worth noting here is the role of Middle Eastern aid organisations in the two Russo-Chechen campaigns. In fact, a number of well-known aid organisations such as the International Islamic Relief Foundation and Islamic Relief Worldwide were founded in Middle Eastern states, and they offered financial support packages to refuges in, and after, the first Russo-Chechen campaign. It also emerges that some Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia alongside specific named financiers, played an increasingly important role in shaping post-Khasavyurt Chechnya through informal ties and through working closely with aid organisations. Furthermore, it was alleged that assistance was given to some radical groups through both informal and formal links to Middle Eastern benefactors. So much so, that Russia banned the work of many Middle Eastern aid organisations. But, unlike other Middle Eastern aid organisations based in the Persian Gulf, support networks and aid organisations in Jordan have not been banned by the Russian authorities. This indicates that Jordan and its Chechen diaspora have played a different role to that linked to Islamic radicalism in the Middle East.
Read the whole thing.
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