To Defenders of Freedom

Mufti Said Ismahilov is defending Ukraine near Bakhmut

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 44-year-old Ismahilov was the mufti of the Religious Administration of Muslims of Ukraine “Umma”. After February 24, 2022, he went to the front as a volunteer and is now serving in one of the paramedic brigades in Bakhmut, the Donetsk region.

Among the things that influenced Ismahilov to take up arms was the history of his own family. “The Moskals (Russians – ed.) have been coming to my family for a century, destroying and taking away everything that belongs to us, everything that is valuable to us,” says Said Ismagilov. The man told his story to “Ukrainska Pravda”.

Photo from the Facebook page of Said Ismahilov

Said Ismahilov serves in the paramedic brigade now. “My task is to take the wounded quickly to a first-aid post, and to keep my eyes on the road. I’m driving, so I can hardly see the eyes of the wounded,” – he says. 

The man explains that he could not have imagined himself looking calmly at seriously wounded people or something exploding nearby before February 24. “But it turned out that I can,” Said says. “I used to be a Mufti before the war, you see? I used to meet kings, presidents, ministers and deputies. But now, it turns out that I can live in the cold, without heating or power, knee-deep in mud”.

Ismahilov also talks about the ruthless battle going on near Bakhmut as Russia throws all the assets and personnel to capture the city, not caring about losses. And about pointless Russian attacks on residential areas, where there are still civilians. “They really have such a pathetically low level of morality that they commit their terrible crimes and don’t care about it at all” Said notes.

Photo from the Facebook page of Said Ismahilov

Mufti Said Ismahilov tells about a lot of personal reasons to fight in this war against the Russian invasion. The main thing is that the Muslims of Ukraine do not want Russian occupation. “Russia is not a friendly, non-tolerant country towards Islam”, he says. “Nowadays, the Russians continue repression against the Crimean Tatars in the occupied Crimea.”

And another reason being just decades of unrest caused by Russia. Ismahilov’s family was forced to run from Penza to Donbas to survive during dekulakization (a Soviet campaign of political repressions of prosperous peasants and their families – ed.). In 2014, Said had to leave Donetsk, his hometown, as he had been persecuted.

“In September 2014, I found out from my friends that I was on the “shooting list” of the Russian occupiers. I quickly packed my things and went to Mariupol, which had already been liberated at that time,” Said recalls. He was able to get through the Russian checkpoint as they had his spiritual name – Said Ismagilov – in the list, and not the one written in the documents. Later, the man moved to Bucha – and in 2022 Russian came there too, looting his apartment.

Photo from the Facebook page of Said Ismahilov
Photo from the Facebook page of Said Ismahilov

Not everyone can be a warrior, Said points out. But everyone should help Ukraine to the extent of their own strength and capabilities.

“I have no doubts about our victory. I want to say to all soldiers, defenders, volunteers, those who work for Ukraine in one way or another, that victory does not begin with weapons. It always begins in the head and heart” Ismahilov says.

Explore more