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Kyrgyzstan seeks ways to counter radicalisation of youth

By Erkin Kamalov

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Police officers conduct preventive work with youth in Tash-Kumyr, Jalal-Abad Province, September 6. [Photo obtained by Erkin Kamalov]

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz youth with little education are at risk of recruitment by militants, specialists say.

Although authorities say the outflow of radicalised Kyrgyz to Syria and Iraq has slowed this year, they are still finding suspected extremists to arrest.

"A search in Tash-Kumyr and Shamaldy-Sai, Jalal-Abad Province, on September 6 turned up a variety of extremist literature in the homes of suspected members of banned organisations," Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman Attokur Omurzakov told Caravanserai.

The court-ordered search targeted several families with members who have faced charges in the past of spreading extremist propaganda, he said.

Such proselytisers "arrange clandestine meetings for youth ... and mislead those who are trying to gain religious knowledge", he said.

Proselytisers for militancy in the Middle East seek out the poorly educated, he said.

Many Kyrgyz lack religious knowledge, author Beksultan Jaliyev said at a Bishkek news conference August 16.

"You encounter religious illiteracy among parents and teachers who should be giving children guidance," he said.

Religion, properly understood and not distorted, should help people live their lives, he said.

Better education needed

The level of public education deteriorated in the past 25 years, a problem that extremist proselytisers are exploiting, Bishkek schoolteacher Nazgul Abdiyeva told Caravanserai.

"The lack of good education leads to radicalisation," she said.

Abdiyeva urged an upgrade in the quality of education, starting with elementary school.

"Students in high schools and colleges who acquire religious knowledge ... will resist extremist ideas," she said. "To solve this problem, we have to involve skilled theologians, clerics and civil society leaders."

Respublika/Ata-Zhurt-affiliated member of parliament Mirlan Jeenchoroyev, speaking at a September 15 session of parliament, asked the government to consider providing teenagers with a vocational education.

"We are seeing a trend of teenagers dropping out of school after ninth grade," he said. "They go out into the street and hook up with extremists. We need to make sure that teenagers finish 11 years of schooling or get a vocational education."

Good jobs defuse radicalism

Another priority is creating well-paid jobs for youth, Bishkek psychologist Barchinai Orozmatova told Caravanserai.

Impoverished youth "have nowhere to go", she said. "They scrape by on temporary seasonal work ... They try to find themselves in religion and end up in extremist networks."

The government and civil society should organise regular job fairs for youth, she said.

"Besides finding work, they need to fill their leisure time with educational programmes, competitions, trivia games and sporting events," she said. "The main solution ... is to raise religious literacy."

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