Kazakhstani province seen as model for successful counter-radicalisation efforts
PAVLODAR -- Specialists in Pavlodar Province are utilising a wide range of methods to counter the radicalisation of youth and women, including clubs that meet in person, personal conversations with at-risk individuals and large-scale web conferences.
Authorities throughout Kazakhstan have been carrying out efforts to prevent youth from becoming recruited by extremists. The efforts in Pavlodar exemplify this preventive work, observers say.
The Pavlodar Province Centre for Analysis and Development of Interfaith Relations is one of the organisations spearheading the efforts to raise awareness and provide information aimed at inoculating residents against radicalism.
"We organise meetings, lectures, special training sessions, internet conferences, flash mobs and other events," centre director Gulnaz Razdykova told Caravanserai.
Since 2013, the centre has held more than 3,000 events with total attendance of 383,000 people -- half the population of Pavlodar Province, she said.
The centre has published 35 print publications, distributing 270,000 copies of them, and handing out 2,500 anti-extremism CDs, she added.
The success of its work lies "in using a wide range of modern methods, including face-to-face talks with citizens who are inclined toward radicalism, and large-scale web conferences for youth", Yevgeny Kryuchkov, a political analyst from Uralsk, told Caravanserai.
A club for modern Muslim women
One of the centre's efforts is a club that focuses on Muslim women who may be vulnerable to extremist ideologies.
"We often run into situations when radical organisations lure young women," said Razdykova, adding that there are many reasons why young women "drop out" of society.
Women at risk of being radicalised suffer from "isolation from society, low self-esteem and inability to adjust to life in their social milieu", she said. "This often leads to dependence on a pseudo-religious organisation, where the person's consciousness is manipulated."
"It takes a lot of work to return them to their families and awaken in them the respect for the traditions of their own people," she said.
At Razdykova's initiative, the centre opened Inabat, a club for modern young Muslim women in Pavlodar city. The name of the club refers to respectfulness, honour, or conscience.
"Kazakhs used to describe the best young women as 'inabat' -- our ancestors packed all the best traits of Kazakh women into a single word," she said. "My colleagues supported the initiative to create a club, and women's religious groups drew up an action plan."
Since October, the club's participants have met twice a month. All of the events are geared toward socialising women, helping them adapt to modern society and giving them the ability to resist radicalism.
The first event was a culinary master class where the young women learned how to bake cakes. During the next meeting, club participants mastered body art with henna.
In the future, the club has planned an outing to a swimming pool and master classes in oriental dance and make-up application, as well as meetings with psychologists and theologians.
Changing youth perceptions
The centre has also set its sights on informing youth throughout the province about the risks of radicalisation.
On December 6, the centre held a web conference for teachers, schoolchildren and parents in Pavlodar city.
"Specialists told the participants about the methods used for online recruitment and warned youth of the threats that lay in wait for them," Razdykova said.
Preventing extremism is achieved through pre-emptive actions that include legal, organisational, educational and outreach measures, according to Razdykova.
"For several years now, we have been holding tournaments in arena soccer, bowling, table tennis and volleyball. We also set up drawing and video-making contests for schoolchildren and university students," she said.
Only the combined efforts put forth by both families and organisations like the Centre for Analysis and Development of Interfaith Relations can halt the spread of extremist ideas in Kazakhstani society, Grigoriy Storovtsev, a resident of Pavlodar, told Caravanserai.