Tajikistani youth co-operate with MVD to combat terrorism

By Nadin Bahrom

A Tajik jihadist in Syria is shown in September. [Twitter photo obtained by Nadin Bahrom]

A Tajik jihadist in Syria is shown in September. [Twitter photo obtained by Nadin Bahrom]

DUSHANBE -- Sophomore students at Tajik State Pedagogical University have been actively signing up for the Interior Ministry (MVD) voluntary people's patrol since the beginning of September.

"Helping the state fight this evil to preserve peace and stability is a good cause. After all, we live in the same country. For us, helping law enforcement agencies preserve our state is an honour," Davron Odinazoda, a student at Tajik State Pedagogical University, said.

"We are future teachers who should constantly be educating our students. We are joining the patrol to become part of law enforcement," said Sulton Khamidov, another student.

According to an MVD source, the MVD receives applications on a daily basis from dozens of volunteers who want to work with the agency. By the beginning of this year, 17,000 volunteers were operating across the country, the source told Caravanserai.

"They help crack down on both misdemeanors and serious crimes. Volunteers work with police to maintain public order. Last year, for example, they helped us arrest four criminals in Dushanbe. They also are active with the public, and especially with youth, in countering terrorism and extremism," the source said.

Youth unite against extremism; the Tajikistani Vanguard

In February, Sughd Province Police Department in northern Tajikistan created seven working groups made up of provincial police department officers, local law enforcement agency employees, and youth. The groups were created through the Crime Prevention Programme that Sughd Province approved this year. They operate in all cities and districts, where they conduct raids and outreach work with the public and youth to prevent crimes, extremism, and offenses.

"When meeting with the public and conducting raids, the groups always strive to keep youth from being recruited into various terrorist and extremist organisations," Sughd Province Police Department Press Secretary Akbar Sharipov said while speaking with local media in April.

Asliddin Khushvakhtov is a head of the MVD youth organisation Vanguard established in August 2015 with the support of Tajikistani youth. The organisation's priority is combating terrorism and extremism, he told Caravanserai.

"The events happening in the Middle East caused us to create an organisation like this," Khushvakhtov said. "We see what's going on in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, and we don't want anything like that starting here."

He said Vanguard has made certain strides with security issues since its creation a year ago.

"We are active in working across the country, so we are very well aware of how important it is for youth to be informed and not succumb to recruiters' pressuring. We also understand that any sort of destabilisation could end with the loss of our sovereignty," he said. "We are speaking in schools and universities to explain what fighting terrorism and extremism is really about."

According to Vanguard activist Akhmadkhuj Davlatov, the organisation's membership grows on a daily basis, and youth want to be active in fighting terrorism.

"Tajikistan was in the midst of a civil war when we were just children. So many mothers were left without their husbands, and an entire generation grew up without fathers. We don't want a repeat of that in Tajikistan. Consequently, we believe it's better to deal with the root causes than reap the consequences," Davlatov said.

Anti-terror messages cross the language barrier

In order to decrease the threat of terrorism and extremism in the country, Tajikistani officials have started publishing newspaper articles in the languages of Muslim ethnic minorities.

Deputy Chairwoman Tojiniso Sharipova of the Uzbek-majority Kubodiyon (Qubodiyon) District said about 70 individuals, mostly Uzbeks, have left for the war in Syria and Iraq over the past three years. In response, we began discussions with the diaspora in Uzbek, she said.

"We did that so that they would have a clearer understanding of the aims of terrorist groups. We used to do outreach work only in Tajik, which clearly was insufficient. Takhti Kubod, the local newspaper, now publishes one page devoted to discussing terrorism and extremism threats in the Uzbek language," Sharipova said.

Press Secretary for the Chairman of Isfara District Ikbol Teshayev said the number of people leaving for Syria and Iraq have been decreased in their district, which had the highest number of war recruits across the country in 2014.

"Thanks to mass propaganda produced by relevant agencies, people have come to realize what's really going on. Over the past year, youth have stopped leaving," he said.

"Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) has nothing in common with Islam as they are destroying all of the history and heritage of the areas they control, Tajikistani historian Sultonsho Makhmudshoyev told Caravanserai.

"We see in videos that ISIL is primarily fighting Shi'ites in Syria and Iraq," Religious Affairs Committee Press Secretary Afshin Mukim said. "Moreover, they kill any Sunni who deviates even in the slightest from their 'ideology'. We should counter this evil together and actively work with the public to do that."

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