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S. Kyrgyzstan seeks to dissuade youth from joining with terrorists
Arrests not always necessary, law enforcers say
By Bakyt Ibraimov
OSH – Law enforcement in southern Kyrgyzstan has adopted a new approach to working with young jihadists and youth to keep them from being recruited by militants. Arrests and interrogations are giving way to conversation and education to steer them away from terrorism.
Dzhamshit, 17, of Kyzyl-Kiya, Batken Oblast, first caught law enforcement's eye two years ago when he began talking publicly about jihad and radical Islam.
"I was detained for the first time when I was only 15," he said. "My two cousins were put on a watch list by police and fined, but they didn’t touch me, because I was a juvenile.”
Now that he is older, police officers recently came to this home to warn him not to carry out the orders of adults urging him to join radical movements, Dzhamshit said.
"They told me it's against the law and the Kyrgyz constitution, and that I may go to jail for that," he said. "I now go to the mosque to pray only once a week, on Fridays."
The Batken Oblast branch of the State National Security Committee (GKNB) has conducted educational sessions among youth and teenagers with the support of local authorities and clerics.
Preventive work is key
Preventive measures help reduce membership in outlawed religious movements, Ubaidulla Karabayev, a cleric at the central mosque in Kyzyl-Kiya, told Central Asia Online.
"You have to engage in preventive work with youth – meet with them more often, explain the interpretation of suras to them in an intelligent and well-founded way; that's what helps cut the risk substantially," he said.
"We talked to a group of religious youth, mostly followers of the Kyzyl-Kiya Jamaat, last month," said Kyzyl-Kiya Vice-Mayor Zhalalidin Rakhmatullayev, a believer in the power of persuasion. "After an imam and other competent persons addressed them, those kids promised not to join any radical groups."
Kyzyl-Kiya Jamaat was formed in 2011 by a Tajik who was killed during a police raid last October in Kara-Suu, Osh Oblast. Such meetings will take place not only at home but also in schools, he added.
"Our imams, qazis (religious judges) and other clerics can talk intelligently about Islam and correctly interpret Koranic suras," Rakhmatullayev said. "Our greatest hurdle is foreign influence – missionaries come to this country to lure people into their non-traditional sects."
The boys identified as supporters of the Kyzyl-Kiya Jamaat, he added, were not charged and were released as first-time offenders after promising not to have anything to do with illegal radical groups.
More religion classes needed in public schools
Religious education should become part of the public school curriculum, schoolteacher Sharipa Koshokova of Kyzyl-Kiya told Central Asia Online.
"Every year, more and more schoolchildren get interested in Islam," she said. "For example, an EkoBank office recently opened here that works in accordance with Islamic principles. Also, halal food has become trendy."
She can’t always give informed answers when pupils ask Islam-related questions in class, Koshokova admitted.
"Religious studies need to be introduced in school curricula without delay," she said. "Kids are curious, and foreign missionaries take advantage (of that)."
Efforts to counter extremism
Countrywide, authorities recorded 94 religious extremism- and terrorism-related incidents in the first four months of 2012, according to the Interior Ministry (MVD).
"Banned religious literature continues to be confiscated in large quantities," southern Kyrgyz MVD officer Zhenish Ashirbayev said. "We've seized more than 5,000 books, booklets, journals, computer disks and (other) electronic storage media. In addition, we've confiscated weapons – rifles, pistols and ammunition clips – from radical Islamists."
Law enforcement has conducted large-scale preventive work to explain to youth that such groups as Hizb ut-Tahrir, etc. work against the state, he said.
"Our efforts have helped reduce the number of radical groups, which pleases moderate Muslims because preventive measures help maintain an inter-faith equilibrium in the region," Ashirbayev said.