New recruiting methods alarm Kyrgyz officials, citizens

By Sanzhar Sharipov

Attendees at a forum October 12 in Bishkek discuss ways to counter extremism and terrorism. [Sanzhar Sharipov]

Attendees at a forum October 12 in Bishkek discuss ways to counter extremism and terrorism. [Sanzhar Sharipov]

BISHKEK -- Extremist recruiters are duping Kyrgyz by offering them employment in Turkey, from where some of them are sent onward to the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), Kyrgyz authorities say.

"Recruiters have found a new method to lure victims -- they promise wages of up to $1,000 per month [68,760 KGS] for applicants willing to travel to Turkey and work as housekeepers, maids, nurses, kitchen workers and drivers," State National Security Committee (GKNB) spokesman Ulanbek Jalildinov told Caravanserai.

Recruiting through social networks

Bishkek newspapers used to carry such help-wanted ads, Jalildinov said. After authorities began checking suspicious employers' licenses, such employers moved to social networks.

"Our citizens are alert and report incidents that occur on social networks [and apps] like Odnoklassniki, VKontakte, WhatsApp and others," Jalildinov said.

Eager job applicants find the offer of an "alluring salary" and a "free plane ticket" tough to resist, he added.

Those job seekers find themselves trapped in Turkey, after which extremists smuggle them into Syria to do the toughest domestic jobs, he added.

Keeping a close eye

"We are scrutinising a number of websites and social media accounts that promise jobs in Turkish companies but actually recruit for ISIL," Baktybek Asanaliyev, an Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman, told Caravanserai.

Authorities recently found a help-wanted ad on the Kyrgyz classified-ad website, he said, describing it as promising men and women US $1,000 per month in Turkey. The ad, though, carried tell-tale photos of militants under an ISIL flag, he said.

"The site moderators deleted the ad several hours after it was posted, but some users posted it on their personal pages before it was deleted," Asanaliyev said.

Co-operation between police and local internet providers is enabling the police to identify who created such help-wanted ads and to monitor them, he said.

Kyrgyz citizens who go to Turkey for work conceal their true intentions, Bishkek staffing agency employee Ainura Sadykova said.

"To work legally in Turkey, you need to complete a series of procedures and obtain an official contract," she told Caravanserai.

Job-seekers who lack a work visa and other paperwork need to pose as tourists; otherwise, Turkish authorities will not let them into the country, she added.

Recruiters target vulnerable, illegal migrants

Illegal labour migration could become a breeding ground for ISIL recruitment, Sadykova said.

"What else can they do?" senior citizen Toktosun Shaimbetov, a retired soldier, of Bishkek wondered. "If they [migrants] want to survive, they have to do what the militants command them to do -- otherwise, they'll face death."

Extremist recruiters select job applicants for certain traits that make them susceptible to extremism, he said.

"The resentful, easily swayed and those floundering in life end up on their lists," he said. "[Recruiters] ... encourage them by saying that their help is allegedly important in fighting their brother Muslims."

Women are vulnerable to becoming sex slaves, he said. Militants force them to serve as temporary wives. If a "husband" dies, the militants assign the widow to another man, making for a never-ending ordeal.

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Hello everybody! Now in Kyrgyzstan people are recruited not only to work as maids, servants about the house, and whatnot but also to work with tourists on cruise ships. Recruiters lure folks in, pay for their ticket and then in Turkey, intimidating them with who knows what threats, they force them to haul migrants over to Greece and Italy. If these guys don't die at sea, they get arrested in Greece and Italy for illegally transporting immigrants. In Greece, this crime carries life imprisonment; in Italy, it is five to 15 years behind bars. Unfortunately, in the last two weeks, I found out about one person who was arrested in Italy. He is awaiting trial, and his friend died. Two days ago, his mother learned about it. Three more guys drowned off the Greek coast; their parents found out yesterday. How can we fight it? Our guys are dying and getting imprisoned! Help!