Young Kyrgyz oppose 'jihad'
BISHKEK -- Young Kyrgyz have been rallying in the south for weeks, marching under banners bearing the message "We are against extremism and terrorism."
"Earlier, preventive measures were limited to lectures or discussions," Attokur Omurzakov, an Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman, told Caravanserai. "But now they occur in the form of parades."
"We had marches October 29 and November 12 on the outskirts of Osh and on November 16 in Kyzyl-Kyshtak village," he said.
Such direct action better resonates with high school and college students who constantly face online recruitment by phony imams, he said.
"High school students, together with committees of local youth and women, prepare posters with anti-terrorism messages," Omurzakov said. "They walk 2 or 3km through streets and neighbourhoods ... to demonstrate their loathing for radical ideas."
Such events attract at least 1,500 to 2,000 participants accompanied by police escorts, he said.
Warning the public
Such events are meant to warn the public, especially youth, so they do not fall for the deceit of violent "jihad", Jahangir haji Mirsaidov, an imam-khatib in Kyzyl-Kyshtak, told local media after that village's November 16 march.
"It is very important to show society the real threats from extremists who lure young men to their side," Mirsaidov said.
The fight against extremist movements should take place not only in meeting rooms but also in public outdoor spaces where large groups gather, he said.
Ordinary Kyrgyz are eager to convey their distaste for militancy.
"We're pleased to have the chance to speak out against extremism," Nigora Tursunbayeva, a resident of Jany-Turmush village, Osh Province, told Caravanserai. "No mother, sister or daughter wants her beloved men to fight in Syria and become ... victims of someone else's war."
The advantages of rural life
Residents of rural areas communicate more closely than do their counterparts in cities, so they can find out readily what other villagers are doing, she said.
"Some residents pretend to be migrating to cities in the CIS but in fact end up going to war zones to fight for ISIL [the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant']," she said. "Our intelligence agents need to keep track of this 'labour migration' route so that militants won't be able to incite our youth later."
A dialogue among all organisations in Kyrgyzstan and a recognition that all of society needs to combat extremism are essential to preserve peace and security, she said.
"To keep young people ... from paying attention to radicals, we need to work closely with them," Bishkek-based religious scholar Kadicha Arstanova told Caravanserai. "Teach them. Explain and talk to them [about various subjects], including criminal liability."
A comprehensive approach to protect youth from radicalisation requires them to take up hobbies like sports and theatre, she said.
"Prohibited topics arouse interest," she said. "That's why you need to clearly explain the dangers of extremism ... and give specific examples of how the deceived find themselves trapped and dying."
Foreign observers are ready to help.
Ambassador Peter Burian, the EU special representative for Central Asia, November 8-12 visited Bishkek. During his time there, he attended the Regional Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism in Central Asia -- Challenges and Responses at Community Level.
"The [EU] stands ready to support countries in the region in solving ... radicalisation of the population and the spread of violent extremism," he said at the conference, according to vb.kg. "Preventing radicalisation ... requires an integrated approach and the co-ordination of effort, not only among donors but among all Central Asian countries."