Monday, October 26, 2020

COVID-Driven Unemployment in Central Asia New Source of Recruits for Islamic State, Tajik Journalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 24 – Many Central Asians who had been employed in Russia but have now returned home as a result of pandemic-driven unemployment are becoming an increasingly important source of recruits for the Islamic State, a problem that affects all countries in the region and must be addressed collectively, Porso Nuriddinov says.

            Earlier, the Tajik journalist says, investigators were sensitive to the fact that Islamist ideas came back to Central Asian countries along with the transfer payments immigrant workers there earned. But they are only beginning to recognize that the return of the new unemployed among this group is “accelerating the process of radicalization.”

            “As a result of the closing of international borders and the return from Russia and Turkey of a large number of migrant workers and the lack of workplaces at home, a large number of unemployed young people are ready to go to extreme measures, including cooperating with terrorists” (

            The governments of the region have come up with “numerous programs directed at countering extremist ideas,” Nuriddin says; but “it is not always clear how effective they are or how capable they are coping with the problems of radicalization.” Or if they can deal with the simultaneous return of migrant workers from Russia and ISIS fighters from the Middle East.

            These groups at least in some cases are coming together and forming new “hidden” terrorist cells” that may threaten the political order in the region or go to Europe or the United States and engage in terrorist actions. Despite this threat, too few Western specialists on terrorism are focusing on this risk, the Tajik specialist says.

            Instead, they are making two mistakes. On the one hand, they are focusing on the possible recrudescence of the same terrorist groups that existed in Central Asia 20 to 30 years ago rather than recognizing that the new groups, while informed by some of the ideas of the older ones, include an entirely different category of people.

            And on the other, they are promoting counter-terrorist programs in the individual countries of Central Asia rather than promoting a region-wide approach. Given the intermixture of nationalities in places like the Fergana Valley, that approach won’t work because Islamism by its very nature is multi-national.

            Instead, Nuriddin argues, what is needed is a region-wide program based on international cooperation among all the countries of Central Asia.

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