Kyrgyzstani teenagers join the fight against extremism

By Erkin Kamalov


Talas residents attend a terrorism prevention event October 30. [Erkin Kamalov]

TALAS, Kyrgyzstan -- Efforts to have Kyrgyz teens prevent their peers' radicalisation are bringing positive results, officials say.

"Officials are meeting with high-school students and rural youth nationwide to keep them from joining extremist organisations," Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman Abdysatar Ismailov told Caravanserai. "The 'We Are Against Terrorism' rally took place in Ala-Buka, Jalal-Abad Province, October 26."

Similar outreach efforts took place in early November in Naryn, Talas, Batken, and Chui provinces, Ismailov said, adding that high-school students there are running prevention efforts via educational games, skits and improvised theatre.

"High-school students are organising lessons to discuss ... the religious situation and those who went [to war zones] through ignorance or against their will were recruited," Ismailov said.

Teens are recognising the risks of radicalisation

Today's youth are fairly well informed on extremism and its negative effects, he added, saying that this level of knowledge helps fight the promotion of radical ideas.

"I didn't know they recruit children online too," Tolkunbek Rakhimov, a ninth-grader in Ala-Buka, told Caravanserai. "I knew that extremists distribute leaflets, but it turns out they can also deceive people through social networks. One of my female classmates came to trust an internet-imam and started following his commands."

A friend tipped off the girl's teacher in time, which ended the conversations with the phony imam, Tolkunbek said.

"But where's the guarantee that tomorrow one of us won't end up in the embrace of radical ideas?" Tolkunbek said. "To keep that from happening, our district is holding various contests, including sports."

Good relations and openness among his peers will help identify in time those who are facing difficult situations and could be vulnerable to recruitment, he said.

Specialists call for new methods to fight extremism

The government, besides conducting outreach to teenagers, needs new and vivid methods to fight extremism, Jalal-Abad attorney Mederbek Kamaldinov told Caravanserai.

"Our city recently organised an open house for teenagers, showing them how law enforcement works and taking them to a jail," he said. "They'll hardly want to break the law in the future."

Every Kyrgyz older than 14 should know that joining outlawed extremist groups is a crime, he added.

"During prevention events, it's very important to emphasise to high-school students that they will face charges for crimes," he said. "We should explain it to them thoroughly. Cite acts and laws."

Authorities recently conducted outreach for schoolchildren in several villages in Talas Province, Nurjan Mamazaliyev, a spokesman for the provincial qaziyat (Islamic judge's office), told Caravanserai.

"The rally was called 'Extremism and terrorism are not Islam', he said. "The schoolchildren learned about concepts like extremism and its negative effects."

Children in Talas Province schools are coming up with creative anti-extremism ideas, participating in Islamic knowledge quizzes and competing to see who produces the best anti-radicalism drawings and videos, Mamazaliyev said.

Parents, teachers, clergy, police are united to protect youth

Parents should keep a close eye on their children, Russian Orthodox cleric Makarii Yeryomenko said during a meeting November 1 in Kara-Balta, according to

"If you don't watch over your children, someone else will," he said. "And don't expect anything good to come out of it."

"You will never be better unless you wish to become better," he told teenagers in the audience. "You must become involved in something. Read, play sports and have hobbies."

At the meeting, Abai Kairakpayev of the counter-terrorism-oriented 10th Main Administration of the Jaiyl District, Chui Province, police, explained how radicals use social networks to recruit youth.

"Until 2015, our district led the country in citizens leaving for Syria," he said. "That figure included children. I urge parents to keep track of whom their children engage online, what videos they watch and what software they use."

Schoolchildren in Kara-Balta, besides hearing detailed answers from clergy, police and teachers, were able to watch a slide show about extremism, Kairakpayev added.

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