Kazakhstan warns of ISIL online recruiting

By Nikolai Davydenko


Kazakhstan is stepping up efforts to prevent citizens from being radicalised by extremist groups online. [Philippe Huguen/AFP] 

ASTANA -- Clergy and security officials are urging Kazakhstani youth to "show vigilance while searching the internet for religious information".

The concern comes as extremists try to woo women and more-educated Kazakhstanis into their ranks in Syria and elsewhere.

"Highly educated people make up a rapidly growing share of converts to extremism since they have great access to various sources of information," Col. Amanjol Urazbayev, chairman of the Astana-based NGO Counter-Terrorism Committee of Kazakhstan, told Caravanserai.

"Each year, [Kazakhstani authorities] block hundreds of .kz domain websites that spread extremist ideas at the general prosecutor's request," he said.

Last year, Kazakhstani authorities blocked more than 110,000 extremist online documents, according to the government.

In March, the country's supreme mufti warned about the dangers of online recruitment.

Kazakhstan must pay close attention to information security, Yerzhan Kazhy Malgazhyuly said, according to his March 3 article published by

"Foreign 'false preachers' have indoctrinated [young people] using the internet," wrote the mufti. "Therefore, we are calling on youth to be vigilant while searching the internet for religious information, and also when getting a religious education."

ISIL effective at internet recruiting, clergy warn

The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) is the most dangerous radical group today, warned Malgazhyuly.

Four residents of Aktobe Province are among the hundreds of Kazakhstanis who have fallen for ISIL and other extremist propaganda and gone to Syria.

Anton Moldin at the Aktobe newspaper Vremya related to Caravanserai the story of Aktobe resident Renat Tlemisov, who left his family to join ISIL.

Tlemisov, a lawyer, embraced radicalism several years ago. Helped by online militants, he made his way to Syria via Turkey in May 2015.

In September 2015, he wrote to his younger brother Yerjan, who joined him last July.

Both brothers left wives and children in Aktobe.

"Rumour has it that Renat was killed in Syria, but Yerjan has been quite active on social media," Moldin told Caravanserai. "He creates one account after another to promote jihadist ideas."

Caravanserai reached Abylkasym Tlemisov, the men's father, by phone, but he refused to talk about his sons.

Women abandon families

In some cases, women enthralled by internet propaganda have deserted their families too, like Indira Faizullayeva, another Aktobe resident. She went to Syria in July 2015, leaving behind her husband, Ongar, and three children, said Moldin the Aktobe reporter, who personally knows the husband.

In the spring of 2015, Faizullayeva became enamoured with the idea of "jihad" thanks to heavy participation on religious websites, said Moldin. Faizullayev, her husband, reviewed her email later and found that recruitment by online extremists had lasted for several months.

Faizullayev remains ashamed of the situation.

"I'm guilty too for what happened," he told Caravanserai. "I was too lenient and let her spend time online."

Two other Aktobe Province women joined the militancy in recent years. They include Gulbanu Asanova, of Kandyagash, who left for Syria in April 2015 as reported by She was 20 at the time and left her husband and 18-month-old daughter behind.

"Don't look for me," she wrote in a note to her mother. "Consider your daughter dead." also described the case of another radicalised Aktobe woman, Aliye, 28 at the time, who went to Syria in 2014.

She abandoned her husband and three children after watching a number of videos on the social network site Odnoklassniki.

Developing cyber-security system

Countering violent extremism is a high priority for Kazakhstan, said Urazbayev.

In 2016, Kazakhstani courts convicted 182 defendants of terrorism, according to the National Security Committee (KNB).

On March 13 in Astana, KNB Chairman Karim Massimov hosted the 19th session of the country's Anti-Terrorism Centre to review efforts to implement the "Kazakhstani Cyber-Shield" ordered by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, according to a statement by the KNB press office. Authorities hope to block the kind of family-destroying online recruitment they have witnessed in past years.

The Anti-Terrorism Centre "combines the efforts of 14 ministries", explained Urazbayev.

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