Anhar Kochneva: ''Not all women happened to be among the fighters on their own volition…''

Victims or criminals? The journalist specializing in the Middle East about returning of terrorists' wives to Russia

Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova has recently reported on thousands of Russian women who want to return home from the territories controlled by the fighters in Iraq and Syria. The situation has caused a mixed reaction in Russia. Our columnist Anhar Kochneva, who is living in the Middle East, in today's author's column for Realnoe Vremya shares her opinion about the fate of these women.

Helping to escape from the captivity of fighters

The Russian-language blogosphere has recently been stirred up by a statement made by Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia Tatyana Moskalkova. It was about that more than a thousand Russian women who followed their husbands and went to the territory captured by ISIS (the organization is prohibited in Russia – editor's note) in Iraq and Syria are asking for assistance to return home.

In the comments to the news, an inconceivably terrible thing began: 99 per cent of commentators are calling if not to lynching, but at least to sending all these women to prison, better — Syrian or Iraqi. Or it is even better to leave where they are now. Some generously made the reservation that children, let it be so, should be taken away and allowed to live in orphanages in Russia. Although they are also not humans. Look what fathers they have.

''They were taught how to explode themselves there'', ''terrorists, they used to cut people's heads'' — that's the general tone of comments left by ordinary people. Which, unfortunately, does not indicate a good degree of awareness of these commentators. Yes, in this case, life is as ambiguous and not black and white as in a number of other situations. Because not all of these women happened among the militants on their own volition, and those for the ''ideological'' reason among them are a minority.

The Russian-language blogosphere has recently been stirred up by the statement made by Tatyana Moskalkova: more than a thousand Russian women who followed their husbands and went to the territory captured by ISIS (the organization is prohibited in Russia – editor's note) in Iraq and Syria are asking for assistance to return home. Photo:

By chance, four and a half years ago, I was trying to help a woman to get out from Raqqa. With the help of loyal to the Syrian government local residents, we planned to detect the house where she was kept, and with other people's documents to take out from the territory, which was controlled by ISIS. However, what happened to me on 1 October 2014 (due to the fault of Syrian corrupt officials I could not be in Syria and had to move to Lebanon), made this operation impossible. Then the Americans bombed Raqqa. There, probably, two Syrian metropolitans were also killed (we were also trying to help them, according to the latest information, they were kept there). I did not have a shadow of hope that our ward could survive in all this nightmare reigned there, under ISIS and during the bombing. Many times during these four years I was thinking about her and mentally asking her forgiveness: it is not my fault that we could not save her then…

She's alive!

When on 19 August, in the news I came across the information about the arrest in Turkey of Seda Dudurkaeva, who was there with forged documents, it was like Hindu Kush or Pamirs off my shoulders. Alive. She was detained together with her two children. She was pregnant with the eldest when we were trying to save her (it would be quite unrealistic to run with a child in her arms). Her children never had normal documents — both were born there. Most likely, she also did not have normal documents.

The woman had unsuccessful and lasted for only a few months marriage at home with the son of a friend of her father behind her – the parents of the young couple decided everything for them that their marriage failed. A protracted depression began. The cheerful and sociable girl was becoming more and more closed. According to those who knew her, and relatives, she changed, didn't look herself. As a result, a Romeo make her fall in love with him, who called Seda to leave everything and go with him to Turkey — to help wounded children in hospitals. Consider this: she was not called to cut heads, she was called to help suffering people. And not to ISIS but Turkey. She, like many colleagues in misfortune, did not even suspect that she was transported from country to country — there was no border as such. Going with the beloved person to make good, Seda found herself in the ''abode of evil''. From which there was no way out.

Seda's father (the former director of Grozny oil refinery and later head of the migration service of Chechnya) was dismissed from his job by Ramzan Kadyrov. I talked to him by phone that time — the family was ready for any sacrifice and expense only to return the daughter home. The mother even went alone to the den of the fighters, but the results were never achieved. As it turned out, Seda married a Georgian Chechen Hamzat Borchashvili, who called her to Turkey, who had lived in Austria before he met Seda on the Internet. Two months after the arrival in Syria, the new husband died — he was blown up by a land mine. And Seda was later given in marriage to his commander — the notorious Abu Umar al-Shishani — the red-bearded Georgian, who was ''buried'' several times by the Russian press (Hamzat's relatives still believe that Abu Umar rigged the explosion to marry Seda).

She, like many colleagues in misfortune, did not even suspect that she was being transported from country to country — there was no border as such. Photo:

Many things happened in this thriller. The mother's attempts to take her daughter home to Russia. Sent by the new groom thugs with machine guns, threatening to shoot Milan — the mother of Seda. Torn nails, three-month stay in the basement with hungry rats: such methods were used to make Seda to agree to marry him. Later, the bastard ''went crazy'' after Seda agreed to marry him after long tortures: terrible labour without medical assistance, complete isolation from people. In 2016, the inhuman was killed. But Seda again could not get home: now she was not allowed with children (already two) by brother Abu Umar.

She managed to escape with her children and two other women only in 2017. When the attack on Raqqa and the bandits began, they became not important for them. They were going through the desert, hid in the homes of the Syrians. Then parents helped to organize the transportation to Turkey where almost half a year the woman had to treat body and mental wounds.

The story of Seda is from those that were in sight of the Russian law enforcement agencies. They do not have claims to her. They know perfectly well that she was rushing home all this time. And that she was held by force, lured to ISIS by deception. As they know about other stories, when women were taken from Turkey to Syria and Iraq by deception: new situation, unfamiliar places, and even mostly night transportations — those who had not travelled outside their native village did not understand that they were crossing the state borders and blindly believed their husbands. But some even blackmailed with kids: if you do not go — you will never see your children. And they went…

Especially that their husbands hadn't always ''worked'' as fighters and thugs: good people of civilian professions are also needed there. Doctors, oil and gas producers, engineers, etc. Because ISIS is engaged not only in cutting heads off: there is really functioning civil infrastructure for the population. And women there were needed in the role of women. Mothers and wives. Nobody meant to make them some a kind of ninja or something. Rumour has it that there were even fights among especially dumbs in arguing who was going to become a next suicide bomber.

Seda was later given in marriage to his commander — the notorious Abu Umar al-Shishani — the red-bearded Georgian, who was ''buried'' several times by the Russian press. Photo:

The higher price for stupidity

Certainly, there were women who purposefully were engaged in recruitment. They deceived and lured to the territory controlled by bandits gullible people caught in a difficult life situation. After all, ISIS acted and probably continues to act on the principle of the sect: once they help a desperate person, then he or she is faithful to the organization that supported him or her in the literal sense into death. Such people cannot believe that their saviours are bad in reality. A person had no work and no home, could not afford to marry – now they had a job, house and beautiful wife. In exchange for loyalty. Potential wives were looked for among those who had no personal life in their environment. They looked for women with depression who lost their husbands because of their death (widows) or those who were going through a divorce. Or they lured already established families. Of those where the wife was not particularly accustomed to argue with their husbands. Or which (as already mentioned above) could be blackmailed, taking to Turkey and then to Syria or Iraq children (now they do not need the consent of the second parent, if the children go with the first and the child is not in the ''stop list'' on the border). Yes: dad was taking daughters on vacation in Turkey, without suspicion. But in fact, it was a human tragedy was unfolding…

Among the most common opinions of commentators are the statements of Moskalkova — returned home women are fraught with potential danger. All of them (and how else?) were trained as bombers and tomorrow or next week they will go and arrange some terrorist attack… I'll tell you what. Do not think that the fallen once from a balcony later on his own volition will happily climb on the roof with a view to jump off it: most survivors of the horrors of ISIS and miraculously surviving women themselves will not play such games. For them it is already a miracle that they have survived and saved (often not all) their children. Those who have gone through hell will better than any professional agitator explain hesitants why it is not necessary to join the terrorists. Among them there are hardly those who would go ''to revenge Russia'' for the killed husband-fighter. It's a little different. Moreover, all of them in varying degrees need psychological help, psychologists will help to filter out potentially dangerous individuals.

Of course, there were those who participated in killings or were in the ranks of the ''guardians of the Islamic order'' in ISIS. For example, he helped to search or interrogate other women, was a jailer or somehow actively participated in the functioning of this ''state''. They (and consciously recruited) are particularly responsible, and they must be justly punished to the fullest extent of the law. But we must do everything to ensure that this meat grinder does not hit those who became a victim of ISIS, who got there against their volition, and sometimes in spite of it. Normal society is different from gangster that it is able to separate the right from the guilty.

As philosophers believe, the most expensive thing in the world is stupidity: you have to pay the highest price for it. Most of the people about whom this column is have already paid a high price.

By Anhar Kochneva