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Terrorism

Kazakhstan resumes repatriation of citizens from Syria in Operation Jusan-5

By Aydar Ashimov

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Kazakh specialists interrogate a woman who returned from Syria as part of Operation Jusan-5, shown in a screenshot from a Kazakh KNB video posted on YouTube on February 5.

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakhstan has announced the successful completion of Operation Jusan-5 (Bitter Wormwood 5), the latest in a series of humanitarian missions to repatriate Kazakh citizens from territories formerly held by the "Islamic State" (IS).

The operation, carried out by the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with the support of the United States and other international partners, saw the latest return of a group of Kazakh citizens from Syria to their homeland, the Foreign Ministry announced February 4.

There have been four other Jusan operations since the beginning of 2019.

On February 5, Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi held an online meeting with US ambassador to Kazakhstan William Moser.

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In this screenshot from a video posted on YouTube by the Kazakh KNB, Kazakh specialists interrogate a woman, accompanied by her child, who returned from Syria as part of Operation Jusan-5.

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A Kazakh medic accompanies children who returned from Syria as part of Operation Jusan-5 in a screenshot from a Kazakh KNB video.

"The minister expressed gratitude to the US side for assistance in the return of Kazakh citizens from Syria within the framework of the 'Zhusan' humanitarian operation and their further rehabilitation," reads a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, using a different spelling for "Jusan".

"The parties discussed a wide range of issues of the expanded strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the United States, and also agreed on joint events together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states," the statement said.

'We didn't leave them on foreign soil'

The group of 12 repatriated citizens included four men, one woman and seven children, two of whom were orphaned.

The orphans will be placed in the care of their closest relatives and the government will provide them with all the assistance they need, the Foreign Ministry said.

The woman and the children will join rehabilitation and resocialisation programmes.

In keeping with national law and international commitments, Kazakhstan will prosecute anyone who participated in terrorist activity, the ministry said.

The KNB posted a short video about the successful operation on its YouTube channel. The video shows footage from the Kazakhs' arrival, doctors examining them and psychologists working with the children.

Kazakh viewers were moved by the video and posted comments such as, "Those poor kids", "We didn't leave them on foreign soil", "Words can't express how grateful we are to the state" and "Excellent work on going to get them".

Helping people return to a normal life

Kazakhstan completed several Jusan operations in 2019, repatriating close to 600 Kazakhs, including about 400 children, from Syria and Iraq.

The international community and the Red Cross have praised Kazakhstan's efforts to repatriate and reintegrate Kazakh children.

Upon returning, some women and children have told about the horrors they endured in Syria.

In February 2020, the government announced the end of the Jusan operations, but this year it has continued to repatriate Kazakh militants and their families.

"There are people both for and against repatriating our citizens from Syria, but the majority of the population supports it," said Nagima Jumadilova of Nur-Sultan.

"These children are innocent, while the women were under the influence of their fanatical husbands," she said.

Bolatbek Isayev, a political analyst in Nur-Sultan, said that whenever he participates in discussions with colleagues from other countries, they voice approval for the repatriation of Kazakhs from Syria and Iraq.

"Thanks to the Kazakh government and help from the United States, our compatriots have come home," he said.

"It goes without saying that the terrorists will appear in court, while the women and children will return to a peaceful life," he said. "This is a humane act by our country and a show of concern for our citizens."

"This is an impeccably executed special operation and a seamlessly organised effort to return the women and children to a peaceful life," Isayev added.

Every intervention by the Kazakh specialists has been planned down to the smallest detail, he said.

"Psychologists are working with the women and children, and doctors are monitoring all the returnees," he said. "The law enforcement agencies are doing their job. The rehabilitation centre, the future enrollment of the children in nursery schools and other schools, and other across-the-board assistance will all help these people return to a normal life."

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