Kyrgyzstan plans operation to repatriate families of militants from Iraq, Syria

By Munara Borombayeva


Kyrgyz families celebrate Independence Day on August 31 in downtown Bishkek. According to official statistics, there are 850 Kyrgyz citizens, including women and children, in Syria and Iraq. The Kyrgyz government is planning an operation to repatriate children of Kyrgyz citizens from Iraq in September. [Melisovskiy]

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz authorities say they are working to repatriate families of radicalised citizens who were captured or killed in Syria and Iraq.

An inter-agency working group headed by Vice Prime Minister Jenish Razakov is co-ordinating the operation, according to an official government statement.

The working group includes representatives from the State Committee for National Security, Interior and Foreign ministries and the State Registration Service.

A delegation is expected to travel to Baghdad in September, according to the statement. Each member of the group has received an Iraqi visa, and a chartered flight from Kyrgyzstan to Iraq has been arranged.

In addition, Kyrgyzstan plans to pay the fines for children who were left without parents in Iraq and found to be in violation of the country's visa regulations. The Kyrgyz government is still deliberating allocation of the necessary funding.

According to official statistics, 850 Kyrgyz citizens -- including women and children -- are in combat zones in Syria and Iraq.

"In terms of the return of Kyrgyz citizens from a Kurdish camp in Syria, work is being done through the Kyrgyz diplomatic corps and the consulate in Turkey to use resources from international organisations to enter the Kurdish camp and identify the location of the Kyrgyz citizens," the government said in the statement.

'Dispel the extremist ideologies'

The government should have a solid plan for the repatriation and rehabilitation of its citizens before bringing Kyrgyz women and children back home, said Orozbek Moldaliyev, a former director of the State Agency for Religious Affairs.

"Aligning ourselves with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, we [Kyrgyzstan] want to bring our children back. ...[But] who will take care of them?" Moldaliyev said.

"We need to take into account that these children's mothers consciously supported their husbands, who surrendered to the ideas of the 'caliphate', and followed them out of the country," he said. "They're steeped in extremist ideas. How will they agree to give up their children? In order to deradicalise them, we need major experts and specialists who will dispel the extremist ideologies."

The government is doing the right thing by bringing the children back to their homeland, said Ikbol Mirsaitov, a Bishkek analyst of religious security issues.

"Our government and civil society want to exhibit humanity toward these children because they're innocent and because their parents took them away," he said. "That's the first thing. Second, according to human rights organisations, children in war zones are in a critical state."

Many of these children are sick and need treatment, and some of them are very young and have no parents, he added.

"I think the government is taking the right humane action," Mirsaitov said. "There are adults who have been deceived. We need to show society that they have repented."

Rehabilitation and integration

Rehabilitating and integrating the returnees are the main challenges, said Aliza Soltonbekova, the Kyrgyz deputy minister of Labour and Social Development.

"Bringing them back is 20% of the job; the lion's share of the work will begin here, when they return," said Soltonbekova in an interview with the "Novye litsa" (New Faces) newspaper.

"There's a specific protocol for their rehabilitation when they return, but for the time being we don't want to disclose all the details because of security considerations and the sensitivity of the operation," she said. "Many things will become clear as soon as the children return to Kyrgyzstan."

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Way to go! Kazakhstan is with you!