EU funds projects to promote open dialogue in Kyrgyzstan

By Asker Sultanov

Kyrgyz youth are shown in participating in an EU-funded anti-radicalism project in Bishkek in April. [Asker Sultanov]

Kyrgyz youth are shown in participating in an EU-funded anti-radicalism project in Bishkek in April. [Asker Sultanov]

BISHKEK -- Two European Union (EU)-funded projects currently running in Kyrgyzstan aim to prevent conflict, foster dialogue and understanding, and fight calls to terrorism, Bishkek-based EU spokesman Askar Erkebayev told Caravanserai.

The EU seeks to create a more unified society in Kyrgyzstan by openly and freely discussing religious issues, aiming to foster an open and free public discussion of issues of religion and of democracy and to reduce receptiveness to extremist rhetoric, he said.

The EU's work in Kyrgyzstan to prevent extremism is essential to the republic, Joomart Boshkoyev, a Bishkek-based security analyst, told Caravanserai.

"We very, very much need the help the EU provides us to resolve the problem of radicalism," said Boshkoyev. "Kyrgyzstan is ... not in a condition to cope with extremism and terrorism on its own. We need help."

Inter-cultural, inter-faith dialogue

The project Constructive Dialogues on Religion and Democracy is focused on "establishing and building the potential of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue", said Erkebayev.

"This sort of discussion could reach a broad circle of people and help them understand the paths, methods and consequences of radicalisation, as well as means to avoid the negative influence of extremism," he said.

Two NGOs -- the London-based International Alert and the Bishkek-based Iyman Foundation -- are jointly running the project, which started in February and will last three years.

The EU granted Kyrgyzstan €830,000 (58.9 million KGS) to carry out the project all across the country, said Erkebayev.

Democracy and religion

The second project, Democracy and Religion, started March 1 and will last two years. Kyrgyzstan has received €690,000 (50 million KGS) in EU funding for the project.

The German NGO DVV International, which is running the project, already has held several meetings and has begun building the project's website, said Nadezhda Romanenko, Kyrgyz country director for DVV International.

"We plan to directly reach 1,300 young Kyrgyz aged 16 to 30 and indirectly reach 4,000 Kyrgyz youth across the country," she told Caravanserai. "We are involving various groups in the project: high school students, journalists, religious youth and activists."

The organisation will meet June 28 to discuss further co-ordination and project management, she said.

"Kyrgyz youth greatly need the EU's projects to counter radicalism," she said.

Action plans

The EU anticipates that by the end of its projects it will achieve results on some goals of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which include preventing conflicts, fostering dialogue and understanding, and fighting calls to terrorism, said Erkebayev.

The projects will allow "the uninterrupted and systematic collection and dissemination of information about initiatives to implement the [UN's] Joint Action Plan for the implementation of the Global UN Counter Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia, including continuously charting who is doing what in counter-terrorism in Central Asian states and in regional and international organisations", he said.

Toktayym Umetaliyeva, leader of the Zhashasyn Kyrgyzstan [Long Live Kyrgyzstan] political party, recommended expanding the scope of EU work in Central Area and developing projects to rehabilitate women who have ended up in various extremist networks.

"In particular, I consider it critical to work with the legal community and the State Commission on Religious Affairs [GKDR] to launch systematic work in the field," she told Caravanserai. "To this day, we don't have a legally established list of recognised extremist literature. As a result, a number of women who were lured into extremist groups are held in severe conditions while awaiting sentences from courts."

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