TASHKENT -- Law enforcement agencies recently held a series of meetings with students in Tashkent vocational (specialised secondary) schools and universities on the topic of opposing terrorism.
The young attendees learned about recruiting technologies used by extremists and how to resist them.
The awareness-raising effort comes as the government tries to stop the flow of hundreds of Uzbeks to Syrian and Iraqi battlefields since 2011.
Meanwhile, public opinion surveys show that Uzbek youth approve recent legal reforms to fight terrorism and are embracing patriotic values.
"The results of a poll taken among youth became public in Uzbekistan May 24," Miraziz Ilkhamov, a staff member at the Tashkent-based polling agency Ijtimoiy Fikr, told Central Asia Online. "Its goal was to understand what motives drive today's younger generation and how closely it holds patriotic values."
"The percentage of those who want a higher education has risen," he said. "In 2006, only 30% of teenagers said they planned to attend college. Now 56.8% do."
Youth are more patriotic than before, Ilkhamov added.
"In 2013, 45.2% of those surveyed said they would like to emigrate," he said. "In 2016, 94.3% said their patriotic feelings had grown stronger."
Endorsing strict punishment for extremists and terrorists
Uzbek students endorse recent changes to the law that make punishment for terrorism more severe.
Those changes, which took effect April 26, include jail time for terror financiers and punishment for extremist recruiters and for would-be militants who attempt to travel to Syria or Iraq.
"This measure is timely," National University of Uzbekistan student Maksim Povarskikh told Central Asia Online. "I favour maximum punishment for terrorists, their financiers and their sympathisers."
"Our lecturers told us that if a terrorist confesses and helps reveal his accomplices, then he could go free," Povarskikh said. "That is the only correct path for those who want to give up crime."
The recent reforms make spreading extremist information punishable by law, Tashkent University of Information Technologies student Timur Umarov told Central Asia Online. "That's good."
"Take a look at the Odnoklassniki social media site," he said. "It's full of various pseudo-Islamic groups ... I am educated enough to skip over them, but many people join those groups."
"It wouldn't be a bad idea to punish the creators of this propaganda, if they live in Uzbekistan," he said.
Recent conferences held by the Interior Ministry (MVD) and other security agencies are spreading the word about the dangers of terrorism to Uzbek youth.
"On May 11, a Tashkent pedagogical college hosted an educational event called 'Youth against terrorism'," MVD spokesman Samvel Petrosyan told Central Asia Online. "Members of the police, customs service and labour migration agencies gave lectures."
"They told [their listeners] how, to protect themselves against extremist threats, they had to raise their level of knowledge and of legal awareness," Petrosyan said.
"The Tashkent Institute of Railway Transport Engineers May 25 hosted its own 'Youth against terrorism' event," Petrosyan said. "MVD officials conducted a roundtable on the fight against extremism and terrorism."
"Police officers described how extremists try to spread their ideas via the internet," Petrosyan said.
Country rejects terrorism
Uzbekistan no longer has any fertile soil for extremist proselytisers, teachers and students say.
"Uzbek youth are very active," Tashkent psychologist Madina Allabergenova told Central Asia Online. "After their university classes, the majority do sports, art, other hobbies, part-time jobs or even run their own business."
"Their love for their homeland is not something imposed on them," she added. "It comes from the young people themselves."
"Notice ... how Uzbek youth react to any insult toward their country in the mass media," she said. "I don't see the pre-conditions you need for extremist ideas to spread among them."
"Sometimes I hear from foreign media that some Uzbek citizens have joined terrorist groups in the Middle East," National University of Uzbekistan student Abdulaziz Shakirov told Central Asia Online. "I've never encountered anyone like that."
"We have a big country with only a handful of traitors like that," he said.