After Tajik colonel Gulmuro Halimov joined ISIS and called on his fellow citizens to follow him, Kazakhstan has been worried that something similar might happen in their country as well. Proper education and freedom of religion are the best bets to stem the spread of extremism, analysts say.
After Halimov posted a video condemning Tajik government and calling on his colleagues and fellow citizens to join him in ISIS, neighboring Kazakhstan’s media and public started to worry something similar might happen in their country. Many in Kazakhatan are worried that this time it is a former high-level official who was recruiting people to join ISIS.
Such a recruitment tactic is nothing new, says former Kazakhstan army colonel and political scientist Rustam Burnashev.
“Radical ideological propaganda through videos is an old scheme that has been used for ages now. And call on people with military training have been made before. The only new thing was that this video had both. In Kazakhstan most men go through military training, and so such an appeal cold be possible, but we are also moving towards a society where less people want to be involved in the military and receive military training, so this might make things more difficult for the radicals,” he says.
“However, this doesn’t mean that governments like the one in Kazakhstan shouldn’t pay attention to what is going on in the country and ignore the ISIS recruitment efforts. Because we don’t want to lose cadres like Halimov in our own military, and we don’t want someone with this level of access to classified information to go missing or join ISIS,” says Burnashev.
However, this whole situation with Halimov will not be a precedent for Kazakhstan and overall Central Asia, says former Kazakh Committee of National Security colonel Arat Narmanbetov.
“Former army officers were first time recruited by ISIS as strategic members in Germany. They were invited to help form the structure of the army, teach the soldiers strategic tactics and combat techniques,” he says.
“Army officers are very important for the radicals, but in Central Asia people rather go to ISIS due to lack of religious freedoms. While radicalism is on the rise in our region, I doubt more army officials will join ISIS,” says Narmanbetov, adding that while ISIS recruiters are indeed becoming more professional there is little chance they will be able to lure more high-level officials.
Radicalism will stop spreading in Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia if the region’s governments pay more attention to education and religious freedoms, says Dosym Kaptigayev, political scientist in Almaty.
“Freedoms, high-quality education and improvement of people’s social status will prevent spread of ISIS in our region,” he adds.
Head of former Kazakh Soldiers in Afghanistan War Association Marat Abdushukurov says the country needs an ideology.
“There’s no clear ideology in our country, and therefore terrorists just fill in the gaps. While Kazakhstan is in a better position in comparison to our Central Asian neighbors, I would still be careful and think about this problem in the long run,” he adds.