Kazakhstan launches counter-radicalisation grant initiative

By Aydar Ashimov

College students listen to a lecture entitled 'Preventing Youth From Being Drawn Into Destructive Cults' in Pavlodar last November 7. [Pavlodar Province Centre for Analysis and Development of Interfaith Relations]

College students listen to a lecture entitled 'Preventing Youth From Being Drawn Into Destructive Cults' in Pavlodar last November 7. [Pavlodar Province Centre for Analysis and Development of Interfaith Relations]

NUR-SULTAN -- The Kazakh government aims to engage local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help counter radicalism and spur religious literacy by launching a grant competition for the training of 1,000 lecturers in the country.

The state has allocated 29.2 million KZT ($77,000) for the training and re-training of outreach groups regarding those issues, the Centre for Support of Civil Initiatives -- a government agency that distributes grants -- said in a statement on January 8.

The centre is sponsoring the NGO competition along with the Ministry of Social Development.

Applications will be accepted until Wednesday (January 22). The time frame for implementing these projects, which cover all regions of the country, is March–November 2020.

The purpose of the competition is to support civic initiatives and utilise civil society institutions' potential in solving pressing issues such as radicalisation, according to the statement.

Money will go to projects that "enhance the competencies and potential of members in outreach work among target groups and introduce innovative approaches to preventive work", the agency said.

As part of these projects, NGOs will train lecturers and prepare collections of lectures and teaching aids that describe innovative methods for conducting preventive work with target groups, it added.

'Significant expertise'

More than 2.5 million Kazakhs were involved in large-scale and targeted outreach events in 2019, according to a statement by the Anti-Terrorism Centre of Kazakhstan.

"Over the years of our country's independence, non-governmental organisations in Kazakhstan have come into being and gained strength, and they have significant expertise," said Leila Baimanova of Shymkent, chairwoman of the NGO Altyn Karpygash (Golden Swallow).

"Developing and implementing socially significant projects, conducting trainings, developing methodological materials, and working with different target groups -- this is the activity carried out at a high level by many of the most active NGOs," said Baimanova.

That is why the state is confident that NGOs can effectively operate in challenging areas such as preventing violent extremism and increasing religious literacy, she said.

"It is imperative to involve more civic groups and citizens in this activity and to allocate more funds to finance such projects," said Baimanova, who also plans to participate in the new initiative.

Improving religious literacy

Gulnaz Razdykova, director of the Pavlodar Province Centre for Analysis and Development of Interfaith Relations, said she works with many civic groups involved in preventing extremism and terrorism.

Different NGOs are working in different areas of outreach, she said.

"Some of them are engaged only in rehabilitating adherents of destructive ... movements, and some are large civic groups that conduct outreach work across the country," she said.

She cited the work of Parasat, a consulting firm in Ust-Kamenogorsk, which is carrying out a government contract.

"I was involved in this organisation as a lecturer and expert on destructive cults," said Razdykova. "Since 2018, I have been giving lectures and conducting workshops for members of outreach groups. I have held such events in Kyzylorda, Shymkent, Aktobe, Karaganda, Kokshetau, Pavlodar and other cities."

The NGOs are making a big contribution to "improving the religious knowledge and religious literacy of the members of the outreach groups", she said.

"NGOs receive government contracts, and they have opportunities to involve experts, the scientific community and opinion leaders in this work," Razdykova said.

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