Hizb ut-Tahrir plays on instability, attempts to recruit new members in Kyrgyzstan
By Aibek Karabayev
BISHKEK – As Kyrgyzstan recovers from April’s governmental ouster and June’s ethnic clashes, Hizb ut-Tahrir has been seeking to recruit new members.
The militant Islamic organisation has increased the number of leaflets it is circulating nationwide, said Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Bishkek co-ordinator, who gave only his first name, Akhmed. The leaflets are printed in Bishkek, not brought from the country’s south as intelligence officers and journalists once thought.
Hizb ut-Tahrir recruiters are actively working in the capital after wooing numerous Kyrgyz in southern regions after the disturbances in Osh.
“We’ve started making more leaflets since June,” Akhmed said. “We are not sure, though, that the demand for them has increased – we are not in contact with the end users who will become visible only after we shift to open struggle. But I think 50,000 to 60,000 new members have already been recruited in Bishkek.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir describes itself as a moderate organisation seeking to establish a caliphate by peaceful means, Akhmed said. The government and many analysts say otherwise, and the organisation is listed among terrorist groups in Kyrgyzstan and in neighbouring countries.
GSNB has found ammo, extremist literature linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir
Officers of the State National Security Service (GSNB) found a secret ammunition depot September 15 near Uzgen, Osh Oblast. It belonged to a Hizb ut-Tahrir follower.
During searches of the homes of southerners charged with fanning inter-ethnic strife, police confiscated extremist leaflets and other items. Some of those were identified as Hizb ut-Tahrir property, Akpar Zhokhonov of the Osh prosecutor’s office said.
“I wouldn’t advise younger people to interact with Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose ‘peaceful’ methods look very questionable,” Mullah Bekpolot Sarizoda of a Bishkek mosque said.
An official statement by the Interior Ministry said the organisation’s goals include “eliminating Kyrgyzstan as a state, abolishing secularism and establishing a single caliphate on the territories of several regional countries.” Special services do not differentiate between Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a GSNB source told Central Asia Online.
“We must fight against both, since they are equally dangerous to this country’s future,” the source said. “At this difficult historical time, people cherishing dreams of a caliphate must be seeking to destroy the country.”
Although barred from parliamentary elections, Hizb ut-Tahrir is supporting some political parties in the election, Kadyr Malikov, head of the Religion, Law and Politics independent analytical centre, said in Bishkek.
Extremism must be fought off, people say
Security analyst Togtogul Kakchekeyev warned Kyrgyzstanis against disseminating the group’s teachings.
“Imagine a village where all residents are infected with plague,” he said. “A war breaks out, and the sick villagers are sent to resettle all across the country. The disease will soon spread to the entire nation.”
As Hizb ut-Tahrir intensifies its recruitment people are finding leaflets left in their mailboxes and by their doors.
“People have been bringing those leaflets to my police station,” police officer Zhakyp Razzakov of Dzhalal-Abad said. “We think (Hizb ut-Tahrir) is trying to play on our current difficulties. But no sensible person will ever go over to its side. Our people are devoted believers who regularly go to the mosque, where the mullah explains that real Islam has nothing to do with extremism.”
“We should bar our kids from religious extremism from the cradle,” former parliamentarian Orzubek Nazarov said. “We have to fight against it.”
Alexander Voinov, ex-head of the State Agency for Physical Culture and Youth Affairs, suggested engaging teenagers in sports, arts or reading – anything to distract them from religious extremism, alcohol and drugs.
“Extremists are akin to drug addicts: they dream of overthrowing the government, just as junkies dream of getting high on drugs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you are actually doing – shooting at people or circulating leaflets. Evil is evil.”
No state programmes to combat extremism have emerged because the government is so new, but the issue remains high on the agenda, both the Youth Affairs Ministry and State Committee on Religion said.
Razzakov, a father of three, wants to “protect both my own sons and all children of Kyrgyzstan against extremism. We’ve all suffered too much. What we need today is peace – something Hizb ut-Tahrir will not give us, ever.”