News / Asia

    Kyrgyzstan Counters Extremism by Educating, Empowering Women

    FILE - Children listen to their teacher during a lesson at a local school, based in a tent, in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
    FILE - Children listen to their teacher during a lesson at a local school, based in a tent, in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
    Muhiddin ZarifBehzod Muhammadiy

    Facing an increasing tide of female and young jihadists, the government of the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan is turning to women for help.

    The chairman of the State Committee on Religious Affairs, Orozbek Moldaliev, says women are more prone to adopt extremist ideas because they have been neglected in religious education and are suffering economically.  For this reason, the government has started programs to teach educated women how to counter the extremism narrative and resist its lures.

    “We will organize workshops and trainings for activist women,” Moldaliev said.  “We expect that women who get these trainings will pass them on to others as well.”

    The programs employ a large number of lecturers nationwide, including women from international aid groups, local law enforcement officers, and officials from the government.  Among the key players are local “zhensovets” - women councils.

    The meetings take place in public libraries, local city halls, theaters, schools and universities with female students, teachers, housewives and others in attendance.  The lectures introduce the women to the values of traditional Islam, followed by talks unmasking the real face of extremism trough the stories of people.  The women also learn about the state law on extremism.

    According to the International Crisis Group, there are roughly 8,000 members in the radical Hizbut-Takhrir movement, about 2,000 of whom are women.  The group recently issued a report called Women and Radicalization in Kyrgyzstan, highlighting a problem of growing extremism found throughout Central Asia.

    No exact numbers

    Analysts say the number of radicalized women in the country may be higher.

    “We can only speak of estimates.  I do not think anybody knows exact numbers,” Noah Tucker, the managing editor of and an associate professor for Central Asia at The George Washington University, told VOA.

    Women are among the prominent ranks of jihadists who have left the country to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.  By Tucker’s estimate, around 300 IS fighters are from Kyrgyzstan, including women and children.

    The issue of IS fighters from Central Asia is a continuous one, especially between Russia and its former Central Asian republics.

    Russia’s main government-controlled TV channel, Russia 24, recently reported from Osh and said the region is a “source of IS manpower,” adding that many IS fighters from Central Asia are entering Russia disguised as labor migrants.

    Russian security said this week that it detained seven suspected IS members from Central Asia who are accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

    The Kyrgyz media have pushed back on the Russian reports, saying the majority of IS fighters are not being recruited in Kyrgyzstanin, but in Russia where they migrate for economic reasons.

    But Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Internal Affairs says that at least 508 people have left Kyrgyzstan to become IS fighters, 204 of them women and minors.  Many come from Osh, a seat of radicalism in the region.

    Appeal to mothers

    According to rights groups and activists, women and children are subject to subservient roles in Kyrgyzstan, making them susceptible to radicalization.

    “What can you expect from a woman who is uneducated and does not have a voice and rights in the family?” asked Kyrgyz author Salima Sharipova, who heads the “Mother Umay” party.

    Matluba Musaboeva heads a Women and Girls Committee of Uzgan in impoverished Osh, which has been a fertile recruiting ground for IS.  She says appealing to mothers might be an effective way to prevent young people from joining extremist groups.

    “Nobody wants her children to get involved in wrongdoings,” she said.  “However, we need more programs on these issues.”

    Musaboeva says many Kyrgyz women are suffering from high unemployment and isolation, which make them vulnerable to jihadist recruiting.

    Analyst Tucker agrees.  “More devout, more educated Muslims in Central Asia usually are not the ones who join IS,” he said.

    More than educational programs for women are needed to curb the jihadist lure, Tucker said.

    Lack of education is not the only reason many people join IS in Syria and Iraq, analysts say.  Socioeconomic factors also drive women and young people to leave Kyrgyzstan, they say.

    “The ethnic Uzbek minority in the south doesn’t get government services in general,” Tucker told VOA.

    The state approach toward women in Kyrgyzstan is more complicated than limited access to education and social negligence, government critics say.

    In June 2013, the parliament passed a law banning all women under the age of 23 from traveling abroad without a male guardian.

    Sharipova of the Mother Umay party says in such a male-dominated society, men are expected to come up with solutions for every problem. She said countering extremism among women is a man’s job.

    “They should defend their homes, families, mothers, spouses, sisters, and daughters from threats.  Family is like a motherland and a fatherland,” she said.

    VOA’s Fatima Tlisova contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora