IWPR Kyrgyzstan: Roundtable “Radicalization of Islam in Kyrgyzstan: challenges and responses” held in Bishkek
The Representative Office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in Kyrgyzstan, with the participation of representatives of the CIS Antiterrorist Center, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Commission on Religious Affairs, NGOs, experts and researchers, discussed the main causes of radicalization and the ways to prevent them.
According to the participants of the roundtable, the trend of citizens’ participation in the radical and extremist groups can be explained by various reasons, but the social-economic conditions are not the main factor.
Opening the roundtable with the welcoming speech, the regional director of
IWPR in Central Asia Abakhon Sultonnazarov stressed that the problem of radicalization of Islam had become common to all countries in the region, and similar sad trends could be traced everywhere, especially with regard to the involvement of women in the ranks of extremist groups.
“Women as well as men are active in the promotion of radical ideas, create women’s groups. Today, the number of women involved in extremist organizations, is 23 percent, whereas in 2001, their number was only 1 percent”, he said.
For example, the head of the progressive public association of women “Mutakalim” Jamal Frontbek kyzy noted that conversations on combating this phenomenon had long been heard, but no specific work in this area had been done: the level of education is falling, and there are no religious studies.
“It is much easier to convince uneducated people in the correctness of one’s ideas; the Internet is full of speeches of various people, who freely interpret verses from the Koran. Destructive forces are also actively using the Internet and multimedia technologies, actively involving young people and online audience in their networks, while the publications of our scientists and specialists are lying on bookshelves, and nobody reads them. We should pay attention to it,” said Jamal Frontbek kyzy.
In her speech, Frontbek kyzy focused attention on women, whose number in destructive groups is increasing, and on the lack of attention from the authorities and civil society to this aspect. She asked to actively engage and work in preventive measures, including with women, develop programs and explain in simple language the incorrectness of destructive ideas, as women have an opportunity to widely disseminate and implement the ideas among their children and relatives, which greatly increases the risk.
Another factor is related to the indifference of the society and the lack of social responsibility in Kyrgyzstan. In his presentation, Police Major, senior inspector of the 10th Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Erlan Bakiyev notes that if we get rid of indifference in society and increase the social responsibility, it will be easier to win any disease.
Participants especially paid attention to the presentation made by the Director of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technologies Inga Sikorskaya about the language and tone of publications of journalists when they cover this subject. On the basis of monitoring of Internet materials prepared by journalists in 2015, Sikorskaya came to the conclusion that media workers often identify Islamic attributes with destructive ideas, and thus they sow enmity in society.
“We must avoid generalizations and not link the radicalization and extremism with the hijab, beard or ethnicity. Due to the fact that messages with a negative connotation are prevailing in the media, there has been formed a negative attitude of the society to the attributes of Islam and religion in general”, said Inga Sikorskaya.
Sikorskaya recommended journalists intending to write about Islam, regardless of its aspects, either to thoroughly study the subject and examine all the aspects, or not to write at all, in order not to bring harm to society by their publications.
Sikorskaya added that journalists of Kyrgyzstan needed serious and detailed training on covering such issues, that it was necessary to create a separate pool of journalists who would specialize in that subject.
In addition to these speakers, Inspector of Department of Central Asia, the CIS Antiterrorist Center, Bakyt Dubanaev also spoke at the roundtable, noting that the leaders of the countries of the region have an understanding that something must oppose this growing threat, and assured that the relevant bodies in all Central Asian countries closely cooperate in this direction.
Ikbalzhan Mirsaitov, a principal analyst at the NGO “Search for common ground» (SFCG), presented the results of the study on the factors, motives and reasons for participation of youth and women of the Kyrgyz Republic in military zones of Iraq and Syria.
Ikbalzhan Mirsaitov told that children from single-parent families or of negligent parents are easily susceptible to recruitment and radical actions, and the recent news about a young recruiter in the south of Kyrgyzstan, or a demoman from Jalal-Abad region who made the explosion of a tank in the north Syria, confirm it.
Another problematic issue is the quality and competence of examination by professionals invited by law enforcement agencies and special services to support their indictments. In particular, human rights activists Aziza Abdirasulova and Vitaly Ponomarev from the Moscow Centre “Memorial” criticized and questioned many expert opinions that had been attached as evidence of the offense of the people suspected of disseminating radical views.
In response to that, the Head of Department of Analytics of the State Commission for Religious Affairs Gulnaz Isaeva said that the question of competent and qualitative assessments is being resolved at that moment, and a special law that would clearly and openly regulate the system of theological examination for law enforcement bodies is discussed.
Guests at the roundtable – journalists, experts, human rights activists and others – asked the speakers questions, shared their views and suggestions on various aspects of radicalization of Islam and extremism.
Continuing the discussion of this topic, the IWPR will hold an international conference on the problem of radicalization on December 7-8, in Bishkek, and this problem will be discussed at the Central Asian level. During the second day of the conference, the IWPR will try to partially fill the gap associated with the correct coverage of the topic of radicalization and will especially invite two experienced Russian journalists – Maksim Shevchenko and Andrei Melnikov, who will hold a master class for journalists.
The roundtable was organized by the IWPR with support from the European Union and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.