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Kazakhstan praised as global mediator at recent Astana Club meeting
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Kazakh NGOs launch new projects in fight against extremism

By Aydar Ashimov

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A Counter-Terrorism Committee analyst speaks in front of imams in Taraz March 14. [Counter-Terrorism Committee]

NUR-SULTAN -- Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Kazakhstan, with financial support from international groups and the government, are launching important projects aimed at combatting violent extremism, say analysts.

In March, for example, the Counter-Terrorism Committee, a Kazakh NGO, conducted training seminars entitled "Modern Tools for Promoting Tolerance and Combating Violent Extremism Propaganda" for imam-hatibs in the cities of Kyzylorda, Turkistan and Taraz.

Lectures at the seminars were prepared by the London-based international organisation Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and the Astana-based Akniyet, an NGO that rehabilitates radicals.

When imam-hatibs conduct Friday prayers in mosques, they address believers with an edifying speech, the Counter-Terrorism Committee said in a statement. The knowledge and skills acquired at the training will help them to more successfully carry out their work.

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Then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev meets with representatives of DUMK on March 18 in Astana (now Nur-Sultan). [Kazakh presidential press office]

"The content of the lectures aroused great interest among listeners who expressed their wishes to continue such trainings," the committee said.

"The issues raised during the meetings are very important in the current situation -- from tactics and topics of proactive preventive work to methods of individually rehabilitating members of destructive religious movements," it added.

During their visits to Taraz, Turkistan and Kyzylorda, committee staff met with municipal officials and with security personnel, culminating in an agreement to utilise the capacity of the Counter-Terrorism Committee in preventive and rehabilitative work.

Joining the war on terror

NGOs "with great potential, strong staff, their own specialists and rich experience are coming to the forefront now," Ruslan Seksenbayev, a political scientist from Taraz and chairman of the Beibit Aspan (Peaceful Sky) NGO, told Caravanserai.

"Such organisations can be of great assistance to the state in the fight against violent extremism," he said.

The Counter-Terrorism Committee, created in 2016 in Almaty, is one of the most successful in carrying out such work in the country, according to Seksenbayev.

Its analysts are well respected among their colleagues and "have a wealth of knowledge and practical experience", he said.

The purpose of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, as formulated by its founders, is to "consolidate the efforts of citizens, society and government agencies in countering terrorism, extremism, drug crime, illegal migration and other global threats", the group says on its website.

The State Programme on Countering Religious Extremism and Terrorism in Kazakhstan for 2018-2022 "emphasises prevention and localisation of violent extremism", Amanjol Urazbayev, chairman of the committee, told Caravanserai.

The government plans to allocate about $1 billion (380 billion KZT) for the five-year programme, he added.

The bulk of these funds is not allocated for the technical equipment of special police units as in the past, Urazbayev noted. Instead, it will finance NGOs and other bodies that are engaged in the prevention, rehabilitation and containment of violent extremism.

Other efforts

Co-operation between the Counter-Terrorism Committee and the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan (DUMK) is part of long-running work against radicalism and linked to the two organisations' joint Memorandum of Co-operation on the Prevention of Extremism, which they signed in March 2017.

The main objectives of the memorandum are to jointly combat radicalism, exchange experiences, conduct analytical work and organise lectures and training courses on this topic, according to a statement on the DUMK website.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Anti-Terrorism Centre in Astana on March 18, leaders of government agencies discussed measures to prevent violent extremism, including further work in implementing United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2396, the National Security Committee (KNB) of Kazakhstan said in a statement.

The Security Council adopted the resolution December 21, 2017. It is aimed at encouraging mutual efforts by countries to combat terrorism and violent extremism. The Anti-Terrorism Centre of Kazakhstan was established in 2013.

Its main tasks are preparation of proposals to the president on countering terrorism, the development of practical recommendations to government agencies and the assessment of terrorist threats, according to a statement on the KNB's website.

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