Staunton, January 31 – Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, head of the Center for the Analysis of Conflicts and Their Prevention, has prepared a new 28,000-word, heavily-footnoted study which acts “Is It Possible to Prevent New Waves of Radicalization in the North Caucasus?” ( ).
Her answer and that of other Russian experts who joined her in a presentation in the offices of Novaya gazeta this week is that it is possible but that the authorities in the main do not know how because they have failed to recognize that radicalization in the North Caucasus has taken on new forms ( ).
The new radicals in the region, they say, are not as heavily armed or organized as were their predecessors, but they are younger, more educated and more ideologically committed and so must be approached in new ways because the use of force by itself against them will only lead to further radicalization and militance.
Attacks on officials are fewer and less bloody because the radicals have changed form, Islamist Akhmed Yarlykapov says. The poor who formed the ranks of the radicals in the past knew little about Islam but were engaged primarily in social protest. The new and more educated radicals are much more Muslim than their predecessors.
Sokiryanskaya, Yarlykapov and other participants in the Novaya gazeta briefing agreed that “one of the chief causes for the radicalization of young people is the violation of human rights in the North Caucasus.” But others include official use of violence against Muslims and restrictions on alternative channels of protest.
Intriguingly, they suggest, Ingushetia by allowing protests as over the border change accord with Chechnya has been the most successful in limiting the rise of Islamist radicalism. Elsewhere, and especially in Chechnya, where demonstrations are not allowed, that trend is gaining speed.
Overall, however, the experts said, “the current prophylactic methods against extremism in the North Caucasus are not effective.” They involve too much violence and too little effort to explain things. Again, Ingushetia is an outlier: its leaders have tried to use the mosques to reach out to people and involve them in talks with the authorities.
Sokiryanskaya and the others urged that the authorities take immediate action to work with what they called high risk groups of citizens: the widows and sons of militants killed earlier in the first instance. Such people need and aren’t getting psychological help to adjust to a more peaceful life.
They also called for special programs to be developed for the wives and children of militants who went to Syria. Such people must not be arrested as in Chechnya but helped – or the vicious cycle of Islamist radicalization will return and even accelerate.