ASTANA -- For the second year in a row, the Kazakhstani Defence Ministry sponsored a nationwide patriotic youth rally, "Aibin" (Valour).
The government is trying to inculcate patriotism in youth after several hundred radicalised citizens joined the insurgency in Syria and Iraq, starting in 2011. The country also was shocked on June 5, when terrorists attacked two gun stores and a military base in Aktobe. Reports differed on whether seven or eight Kazakhstanis were killed.
Aibin took place at the army's Spassk military training centre in Karaganda Province June 14-18. Officials hope to make it a regular event.
A vast event
More than 800 young men and women from military boarding schools and military-patriotic clubs, as well as college students majoring in military studies, participated. Each one brought patriotism and a desire to serve in the military.
Patriotic education of youth "plays a great role, because it imparts responsibility for the country and willingness to defend it", Aidyn Suleimenov of Almaty, a reserve air force lieutenant and leader of the Ulan (Guardsman) military patriotic club, told Caravanserai. "But defending the motherland is impossible without physical training and an elementary knowledge of military equipment and weapons."
Military-patriotic education is therefore "entirely appropriate", he said, adding, "Terrorism and extremism ... are growing throughout the world, including in Kazakhstan."
"In our club, we teach children to distinguish between real Islam and extremist incitement," he said. "Many Islamists fighting in Syria and Afghanistan don't even know what a namaz is."
"Our pupils will be able to understand soon enough that they are being exposed to propaganda urging them to ... commit crimes and to perish," he said.
"Studying weapons ... encourages respect for [the weapons]," Suleimenov added. "The graduates of military-patriotic clubs usually go on to military academies."
"The rally of youth ... united by one shared idea, defending their country, is a great force," Vladimir Severnii of Almaty, a colonel in the army reserve, told Caravanserai. "Those who take part in such rallies gain ... lifelong immunity to [extremist recruiters] ... No graduate of such clubs has ever joined terrorists."
"Young people who have been forged on real military training grounds ... have learned to despise treason in all its forms since childhood," Severnii added.
Deputy Defence Minister Col.-Gen. Saken Jasuzakov formally opened the rally in Spassk.
"We are particularly pleased by the positive attitude and ambitions of our young people who want to link their lives to the army," he said at the opening ceremony June 14.
This year, Aibin welcomed female students from university military departments. Many of them are seeking careers in the military after graduation.
"We spent two months preparing for the rally," Aida Baidibekkyzy, who finished her first year at M. O. Auezov South Kazakhstan State University in Shymkent, told Caravanserai. "Two women were selected out of 22 ... I like the military profession very much ... I dream of becoming a general."
Participating clubs competed for awards for best military-patriotic club, best university military department and best military boarding school.