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“Nobody Departed to Iraq and Syria from Here”. How Villages of Tajikistan Counteract Extremism

 In mid-February, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, Sirojiddin Muhriddin, said that the country had begun the work on returning its citizens from Syria and Iraq. In recent years, nearly two thousand people departed for there. However, the situation in the country is uneven: in some districts, a large number of people join the ranks of extremists, and in other districts, there is not a single person who has departed.

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In the city of Isfara in the north of Tajikistan, there are 12 jamoats: Vorukh, Kulkand, Lakkon, Navgilem, Nefteobod, Nurafshon, Surkh, Khonaobod, Chilgazi, Chorkuh, Shahrak and Shurab. Most of the locals are religious people.

Last fall, Mansurjon Umarov, the deputy head of the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan, reported in Parliament that during the last years, 1 899 Tajik people left for the war in Iraq and Syria. These figures include 111 Isfara residents.

According to Sururiddin Ziyovaddinzoda, head of Isfara hukumat, 70% of Isfara residents who joined the IS (terrorist and extremist organization banned in the Republic of Tajikistan – ed.) are residents of the Shahrak village jamoat, and 30% are from Navgilem and Nefteobod.

Nodira Avezova. Photo: CABAR.asia
Nodira Avezova. Photo: CABAR.asia
Some believe that the lack of both religious and secular education is the reason for such statistics. According to Nodira Avezova, one of the leaders of Chorkuh jamoat, those who do not know Islam and Sharia become extremists:


– They [who left for Iraq and Syria] cannot even read books and namaz; therefore, other people influence them. Most of them say that they committed those acts because of misunderstanding. There even was a time when women did not show up outside, only four or five women were working. Now such behavior is rare. However, those who have become extremists cannot answer any simple question about Islam.

Photo: CABAR.asia
Photo: CABAR.asia
Three large and 22 five-day mosques function in Chorkuh jamoat. According to imam-khatib Orifjon Habibulloev, about 6 thousand worshippers gather there during the Friday prayer:

On Fridays, we talk about patriotism, the meaning and signs of true faith, and the prevention of joining extremists. In the five-day mosques, during each namaz (prayer), we tell the Hadiths, we preach. We explain to believers that Islam is a pure religion.

Muazzam Nazirova. Photo: CABAR.asia
Muazzam Nazirova. Photo: CABAR.asia
According to Muazzam Nazirova, the Head of Committee for Women’s Affairs of Surkh village jamoat, poverty and disadvantaged living conditions of families also cause extremism. Most of those who joined terrorist groups did this hoping to receive material supply that they were promised:

– As a result of these problems, a person loses his faith and will, while others use his condition, give him money and lure him into deception. Fortunately, I can confidently say that nobody left for a war in Iraq and Syria from Surkh jamoat. Nevertheless, we do not sit back and carry out works to prevent young people from joining extremists.

Shodi Hafizzoda, Head of the Organized Crime Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan:

“75% of those who joined the IS (terrorist and extremist organization banned in the Republic of Tajikistan – ed.) did it during labor migration.”

Jafar, Isfara resident:

– We must watch out not to be used by others. Why are other states with strong economies causing the destruction of others? See, now the IS (terrorist and extremist organization banned in the Republic of Tajikistan – ed.) is defeated. When the Russian economy was in crisis, terrorists could attract migrants with fraudulent promises of money. Now the situation in Russia is improving, and people can earn their bread there.

According to Imam khatib Orifjon Habibulloev, migrants from Chorkuh are supervised by relatives, because they work together with their family members, and this reduces the risk of radicalization.

This article was prepared under IWPR project “Stability in Central Asia via Open Dialogue”.

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