Kazakhstan eyes pinpoint approach to extremism awareness

By Aydar Ashimov

Aktobe resident Alibek Aliyev, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for preparing to commit a terrorist act, can be seen in this screenshot from the documentary "Repentance".

Aktobe resident Alibek Aliyev, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for preparing to commit a terrorist act, can be seen in this screenshot from the documentary "Repentance".

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh theologians and psychologists are set to shift to a focused awareness strategy among efforts to better prevent violent extremism in the country.

On September 6, a roundtable involving members of an outreach group took place in Almaty to examine the effectiveness of activities aimed at preventing extremism and terrorism.

Such outreach groups include theologians and psychologists and report to the government's Committee for Religious Affairs.

Kazakhs continue to be drawn into destructive movements, said Dias Yesdauletov, director of the Almaty municipal government's Social Development Directorate, at the meeting.

Outreach groups will revise the format of their work, which now will proceed "in a focused, pinpoint manner", he said.

Lectures debunking extremism's message are now being held for civil servants, university students, schoolchildren, military personnel, members of various faiths and employees of businesses, participants noted at the meeting.

For example, a lecture entitled "Preventing Religious Extremism and Terrorism" took place September 6 in Almaty at Military Base No. 2458, reported. Border guards comprised the audience.

The lecturer, Almaty religious scholar Gulnar Jumanova, described radicalism as one of the main threats to the country's security. She highlighted the main ways that Kazakhs are radicalised, such as the internet (including social networks) and relatives and friends.

Zarema Abdullina, a teacher at the Almaty University of Power Engineering and Telecommunications, gave another anti-extremism lecture September 5 in Almaty, where she addressed employees of the Aksay Nan commercial bakery.

Abdullina gave a socio-psychological portrait of extremists and described recruitment methods. She gave examples of the tragic fates of terrorists and their families.

Her talk came after a series of trials in which those accused of inciting religious hatred were convicted.

A court in Almaty in August sentenced one man to eight years in prison and two others to 7.5 years for inciting religious hatred. Another six are being prosecuted, reported.

All of the accused were allegedly part of a WhatsApp group that expressed hatred of various faiths and discussed the murder of "infidels". The group had a total of 171 members.

In July, a court handed down sentences for Aktobe residents Alibek Aliyev and Janasyl Jubatov, who were planning the murder of a judge, National Security Committee (KNB) officers and civil servants. The court sentenced them to 15 and 13 years in prison, respectively.

While in custody, Aliyev said he regretted his actions and gave an interview for the documentary "Repentance".

Aliyev said in the interview that he came under the influence of online preachers, wanted to participate in armed so-called "jihad" and planned to journey to the Middle East to fight alongside "Islamic State" (IS) militants.

Bolstering school security

At the same time, educational institutions are implementing new security measures to protect the 3 million children who attend school each year in Kazakhstan.

For example, Boarding School No. 2 in Petropavlovsk has developed a terrorist threat response, regularly registers visitors and holds emergency evacuation exercises.

"Video surveillance has been installed in schools, there are specific rules for installing it and camera recordings must be kept for a month. There are guards at all the schools, and an alarm system is mandatory," said Alnur Sagatov, a Nur-Sultan-based veteran and employee of a private security company.

Schools are not always able to hire specialised security companies, he lamented.

"An ordinary watchman cannot provide the proper level of security," he said. "Unfortunately, not all schools have equally high security."

"Schools in cities have more opportunities, but in rural areas the leadership of educational institutions does not always understand the importance of ensuring children's safety, or not enough funding is allocated for these purposes," Sagatov said.

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