Saturday, November 26, 2016

ISIS Finds It Easier to Recruit Central Asians in Russia than in Their Homelands

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 26 – ISIS finds it far easier to recruit Tajiks and other Central Asians who are working in Russia than in their homelands because while “the Russian special services seek to prevent their recruitment,” Russia’s legal system and media are doing everything to “support it,” according to Andrey Zakhvatov of Fergana News.

            ISIS recruiters, he points out, proceed slowly and they focus “in the first instance on young people with low levels of education, often almost illiterate, religious but nonetheless capable of turning to [Internet] social networks” and they play on the emotions of their targets (

            Such emissaries of the Islamic State, Zakhvatov continues, view “young people from among labor migrants working in Russia with particular interest,” especially those from Tajikistan who are concentrated in major Russian cities because such people, as a result of stress in their lives, are more easily turned.

            “Finding themselves in an unfamiliar language milieu, living in overcrowded apartments and daily being subjected to ever more stress, the young Tajiks receive from the recruiters their first information about a distant but by its spirit native for them Arab country Syria which awaits and is calling for them.”

            That makes the task of the ISIS recruiters easier as do the anti-Tajik messages in Russian media, the socio-economic problems in their homeland that have forced them to seek work elsewhere, and the willingness of Tajiks to accept ISIS claims about the approach of a final battle between Sunnis like themselves and the Shiia.

            Moreover, Zakhvatov says, the authorities in Tajikistan have taken a range of measures to limit ISIS activities there; and they have been helped by China which has among other things created an interior ministry academy and an anti-terrorist center in Dushanbe, in the first instance to protect Chinese interests but something that limits the spread of ISIS activities.

            Nonetheless, Tajikistan faces a serious challenge now and in the future: population growth far too rapid for that country’s economy to absorb and provide adequate employment and income for the roughly 200,000 additions to the population each year.  As a result, the Tajik government is going to have to do more in the future to avoid becoming a recruitment center.

            The analyst says that “the level of internal threats which are promoting the radicalization of young people in Tajikistan is still high” despite what the Tajiks and the Chinese have done. But at present, it is the Tajik gastarbeiters in Russia who are the easier recruitment target for ISIS.

            “Not finding in their own country social support, encountering in Russia unbearable expenses and numerous difficulties, frequently created by the Russian authorities themselves,” Zakhvatov says, “many thousands of labor migrants can fall under the influence” of recruiters from ISIS and other extremist groups.

            Unless Dushanbe devotes more attention to the socio-economic needs of its population and unless Russia helps ease the situation economic and cultural of Central Asian gastarbeiters there, this problem is only going to get worse, the Fergana News analyst suggests.

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