NARYN, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz authorities are holding regular events in Naryn Province, up in the north, to combat the radicalisation of youth.
Participants in the effort include clergy and law enforcement.
The effort comes as Kyrgyzstan acknowledges that more than 500 citizens have joined the militancy in Syria and Iraq since 2011.
A round-table in May
During a speech at a May 12 round-table titled "Terrorism and society", Mambetasan Ibrayev, the chief Islamic judge (qazi) for Naryn Province, described the toll that extremist recruitment has taken on Kyrgyzstan.
"More than 500 of our compatriots are in war zones where ISIL [the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'] have attacked," Ibrayev said in his speech. "They could come back and sow discord in our society."
The Kyrgyz have to work closely with the younger generation that "internet imams" are trying to recruit, Ibrayev said, adding that outreach to college and high-school students should continue all summer.
"The fate of our youth is in our hands," he said. "Each of us must make a contribution."
Of the more than 500 radicalised Kyrgyz who went to the Middle East in the past five years, 16 came from Naryn Province, Jakshilik Matyyev, an Interior Ministry (MVD) 10th Main Administration official based in the province, told Central Asia Online. The majority of the Kyrgyz militants come from three southern provinces.
The 10th Main Administration fights terrorism and other threats to domestic security.
It is quite possible many of those 16 Naryn Province extremists have been killed, Matyyev said, adding that their fate is uncertain.
Decline in extremist recruitment
At the same time, extremism is rapidly losing popularity in Naryn, Matyyev added.
"This year we have recorded only two extremism cases," Matyyev said. "The first involved a resident of Naryn who spread false information about ... ISIL and 'jihad'. He received a six-year prison sentence."
"The second case involved a native of Ak-Talaa District who ... had extremist materials in his possession when he was arrested," Matyyev said.
Keeping an eye out
Muslims in Naryn Province are doing their part to help law enforcement, Matyyev said.
They are keeping trouble-makers out of mosques, Matyyev said, adding that the unwelcome individuals include suspected radicals and those who feud with the clergy about interpretations of Islam.
"Local believers are gaining new knowledge thanks to educated imams, theologians and other religious scholars," he added.
Residents of Naryn Province, whether in the cities or countryside, are participating in preventive work to protect the younger generation, Azat Alseitov, the Naryn provincial prosecutor, said in his own speech at the roundtable.
"Most of the [Kyrgyz militants] went to Syria and Iraq for ideological reasons rather than for money," Alseitov said. "Regular meetings with the public protect it from ... radicalisation."
"But the internet always adjusts [to law enforcement]," he said. "Recruiters continue to approach teen-agers through social networks and mobile apps."
Only educated persuasion will reduce the number of extremist sympathisers, Alseitov said. Such work requires precise answers founded on correct citations from the Koran, he added.
The dangers of modern technology
It is difficult to track the internet behaviour of children who use mobile apps and social networks, Railya Mukanova, a teacher at High School No. 2 in Naryn city, told Central Asia Online.
"We need to rely more on children's common sense," Mukanova said. "But we also must not expect the problem to solve itself."
Giving children a solid grounding in religion is one approach, Mukanova said.
Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, Kyrgyz educators intend to begin teaching religious studies in public schools, Mukanova said.
"We have to do [anti-extremism] outreach work over the summer," she added. "This will help protect schoolchildren and college students."