Hizb ut-Tahrir recruiting young women
Women who follow extremists often do so on the sly
By Erkin Kamalov
OSH – Two years ago, Dilnoza, now 13, quit school at her father’s insistence.
“Many of my female classmates left school and signed up for courses in pattern making and sewing, and others helped their parents with the household,” she said. “I decided to learn the prayers and teach young children the fundamentals of Islam.”
Authorities say growing numbers of women in southern Kyrgyzstan are susceptible to recruitment by extremist groups, particularly Hizb ut-Tahrir, because they are being led astray by poorly trained imams and male relatives.
At Shohid-Tepa Mosque, for example, Ubaidullo I., a 29-year-old Osh resident, said, “The new mullah interprets the Koranic suras incorrectly, distorts the ideas and frequently makes mistakes when reading the Friday prayer.”
The problem is that some clerics lack a proper religious education, Ubaidullo said.
In co-operation with the Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (DUMK), the Kyrgyz government began inspecting mosques, including Shohid-Tepa, and verifying mullahs’ credentials earlier this year.
Extremism affects women most of all
Women, however, are feeling the biggest impact from extremism, analysts say.
“An alarming situation is taking shape for Muslim women, some of whom are forced to follow their husbands, who adhere to non-traditional Islam,” Damira Karabekova of the NGO Demilgechi Ayaldar told Central Asia Online.
After last year’s ethnic clashes in Osh, “It became difficult to detect women who followed religious sects banned in Kyrgyzstan because they often lead secretive lifestyles,” Karabekova said.
Women drawn in by extremists are most often relatives of members of extremist organisations who call on the women because the extremists generally find it difficult to live on their own for very long, Interior Ministry spokesman Jenish Ashirbayev said.
To prevent extremists’ ideas from spreading in the south, particularly among women, “We need to improve the well-being of the local population, offer education widely, do educational work with them and convince them they have chosen the wrong path,” Osh State University history and social-political studies instructor Guljamal Bekmurzayeva said.
“Women are becoming hostages to the situation: they trust their husbands, fathers and brothers, and later they have to take responsibility for them,” Bekmurzayeva said. “Probably only Allah alone can judge whether this is right or wrong.”
Family pressures on girls
Women are also more susceptible to propaganda since many of them were forced to abandon their education.
When asked about her competency to teach the Koran at such a young age, Dilnoza defends herself, saying “Even when I was young I was reading religious books. My father knows all the suras of the Koran by heart and explains the proper interpretation of each sentence.”
Karabekova urges Kyrgyz authorities to pay serious attention to such situations.
“The fate of girls from families who inculcate them with an incorrect understanding of Islam and force them to read religious books and listen to and watch audio-visual material with illegal content is particularly worrisome,” Karabekova said. “It’s not impossible that some of them will turn out to be extremists in the future and, after that, suicide bombers.”
These young girls are the victims of their families, with little real future, Karabekova said.
“Parents have no right to forbid their children to go to school; it is illegal,” said the source in the presidential office. “In the past, we worked with parents who made their children work instead of going to school. Now, it is the same situation with children who are being sent to mosque instead of to school. We are now developing programmes for this problem.”
On September 12, the State National Security Committee (GKNB) summarised operations from January through August. “(Authorities) detected the activities of 47 persons involved in extremist organisations,” stated the GKNB press release. “Twenty-three dangerous members of domestically banned organisations were detained and prosecuted, including female leaders.”
Kyrgyzstan in extremists’ sights, GKNB says
“Kyrgyzstan is becoming one of the targets for the activities of organisations in the region like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Tablighi Jamaat,” GKNB chief Keneshbek Duishebayev said.
“In recent months, the number of women involved in extremist religious organisations has been increasing,” Ashirbayev said. “On September 5, (police) carrying out a Kara-Suu District Court order … searched homes and seized literature and audio-visual materials with religious content. All of the young women, ages 18 to 40, had fallen for their male relatives’ incitements.”
Recently, officers at the Southern Administration of the Interior Ministry’s 10th Main Administration received information on members of a women’s wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kara-Suu District “who had gathered women around them, especially young girls, and were doing agitation and propaganda for Hizb ut-Tahrir by distributing literature and compact discs,” Ashirbayev added.
The Interior Ministry has stepped up operational and investigative work in order to expose as many extremism-linked young women as possible to normal life.