| Terrorism

Uzbekistan 'rehabilitates' 16,000 former extremists

By Maksim Yeniseyev


Smoke billows past the minaret of a mosque as Iraqi forces advance inside Tal Afar August 25. Sixteen Uzbekistani families are in a camp in Tal Afar, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. [Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP]

Smoke billows past the minaret of a mosque as Iraqi forces advance inside Tal Afar August 25. Sixteen Uzbekistani families are in a camp in Tal Afar, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. [Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP]

TASHKENT -- Restoring disgraced citizens to society's good graces is continuing rapidly in Uzbekistan, according to the government.

In July and August, the government de-listed about 16,000 of the approximately 17,000 convicted or suspected extremists on its blacklist, according to a government report in September. The blacklist, which imposed various restrictions on the listed individuals, came into existence in 1999.

The move is part of the government's effort to rehabilitate extremists and to return them to peaceful life, rather than leave them embittered and isolated.

Caravanserai previously reported that the government de-listed 56 individuals in August in Tashkent and that the process is continuing. The government is seeking the input of local officials and clerics in deciding whom to remove from the list.

Creating new opportunities, providing financial support

Recognising the need that long-time outcasts have for assistance, the government offered business development loans to some of the formerly blacklisted citizens, according to Uzbekistan 24, a state-owned TV channel. Nine thousand five hundred of the rehabilitated individuals obtained jobs.

More than 10,000 children of once-blacklisted Uzbekistanis have become involved in arts, science and sports.

"If we don't show such people generosity ... and don't extend a helping hand, they will remain pariahs," Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Tashkent on Independence Day (August 31), according to Gazeta.uz.

Rehabilitation matters not only to ex-extremists but to society at large, say specialists.

"When the terrorists [in Iraq and Syria] finally are destroyed, we'll face the question of what to do with captured Uzbekistani militants," Tashkent political analyst Umid Asatullayev told Caravanserai. "If we extradite them and dont' rehabilitate them, they'll remain a source of tension in our country."

Saving families, bringing women and children back home

Uzbekistanis who cast their lot with insurgents in Syria and Iraq are now paying the price, as coalition forces systematically crush those insurgencies.

Many widows and children of militants are trying to go home, while others languish in refugee camps in Iraq.

Militants' widows from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan were stuck in a refugee camp in Tal Afar, Iraq, a Chechen woman who left that camp told OC Media in September.

A camp near Mosul set aside for militants' widows and children had 16 Uzbekistani families, the Norwegian Refugee Council told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) September 14.

Iraq is planning to negotiate with the many countries of origin about repatriating the foreign widows and children, according to RFE/RL, citing the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

"Rehabilitation is needed not just for former militants but also for their families," said Asatullayev.

"If we don't give militants and their families the chance to rehabilitate, they'll be left with no option besides trying to join extremists in other countries, like Afghanistan," he said.

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