Friday, November 30, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Militants in North Caucasus Said Skillfully Using Social Media to Attract Ever Younger Recruits

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 30 – Anti-government militants in Kabardino-Balkaria are using social media in a sophisticated way to recruit new members for their groups, according to police officials there, and as a result, “the underground is becoming ever younger,” rather than withering away as Moscow has often claimed.

            Beslan Mukhozhev, the deputy head of the republic Interior Ministry’s Department for Combatting Religious Extremism, said that militant recruiters are “ever more frequently acting through social media sites like ‘Fellow Classmates’” and beginning psychological processing those who visit such sites and particularly young women (

            He mentioned a recent case when “a girl in the seventh class [from KBR] was processed in this way and took a husband in Daghestan.  There [the militants] prepare girls for the underground,” what he labeled “‘militant girl friends.’”
            According to the MVD official, “unemployment and a lot of free time” incline young people in his republic to get involved with Muslim groups out of a certain “romanticism” and desire to be with others their own age.  Mukhozhev’s colleague, Colonel Zurab Afaunov said that in his view, parents are to blame “in the majority of cases.”

             The KBR officer said that he and his fellow officers often see families that are well off and law abiding but whose children “fall under the influence from the side” because “parents do not sufficiently look after them: their children comes home at night and they do not even ask him where he was.”

            Afaunov added that the young people who are what he called “the victims of the recruiters” are in the first instance those “who have encountered difficulties – financial, psychological and moral. Or, for example, having finished school, they have not entered a higher educational institution and remain without anything to do.”

            According to Mukhozhev, “there are many factors” which promote the attachment to radical Islamist ideology, including “shortcomings in the government’s youth policy, the lack of sufficient control over youth, and religious illiterarcy.  Andzor Yemkuzhev, the deputy head of the republic’s MSD agrees: few of the recruits have any idea just what “jihad” means in Islam.

                Such police reports will likely be used by some Moscow officials to press for even tighter controls on the Internet and to deflect criticism for doing so.  But they reflect an underlying reality in the North Caucasus that the central Russian government has still not found any effective way to counter.

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