“Radicalization without violence is not dangerous”, expert considers

A 54-year-old resident of the city of Rudny was fined $650 for magazines published by the sect “Allya Ayat”, which is illegal in Kazakhstan. According to the Press service of the Police Department of Kostanai region, 15 magazines were confiscated, which were developed directly by the Head of the sect “Allya Ayat”, Farhat Abdullaev, known as Farhat-Ata.

The sect “Allya Ayat” (Child of the Sun) was banned in Kazakhstan in 2009. It was created by Farhat Abdullaev, who in 1990 declared himself an “envoy of extraterrestrial forces”. According to legend, one night the prophet Jabrail descended from heaven and called him the Creator. Farhat Abdullaev and his wife Nina Kasimova died in 2007 and in 2017, respectively.

Nevertheless, “Allya Ayat” continues to recruit new adherents not only in Kazakhstan, but also in neighboring states.

It is worth noting that in Rudny there is a large number of supporters of this teaching. In April of this year, law enforcement agencies reported that two women were fined $327 for organizing an occult-mystical organization in the city of Rudny. Another follower of Farhat-Ata was fined $460 for keeping of extremist literature.

Meanwhile, on September 4-5, the International Scientific and Practical Conference “Dialogue of researchers and experts – opportunities for the integration development of the CIS countries” was held in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), within the framework of which a special section “Extremism as a threat to the integration development of the CIS countries” was held countering extremism and radicalism in the Commonwealth countries.

According to Zhaksylyk Sabitov, the associate professor of Political science department at L.N. Gumilev Eurasian National University, in Kazakhstan, as well as in other Central Asian countries, the problem of extremism often correlates with nationalism due to multi-ethnicity and multinationality.

“Any debate in the field of language learning or religious education is used by extremists as an instrument for manipulating public consciousness,” Sabitov said. “Often there are arguments about a certain loss of ethnic or religious identity, language and culture. At the same time, it is completely forgotten (or put to the background) that the interaction between ethnic communities and religions should be based on an understanding of the uniqueness of each of them. Extremism in the youth environment is the result of a decrease in tolerance, culture and education, a crisis of moral and value orientations, patriotism and citizenship in society. One of the key features of extremism, even regardless of its ideological form, is identification, i.e. the ability of an individual to identify himself on the basis of political, nationalist or religious ties. Therefore, focused attention to identification makes extremism a hypothetically attractive paradigm for the youth community.”

It should be noted that according to the program manager of the UN Office on drugs and crime Vera Tkachenko, in Kazakhstan at the end of 2018, 656 people were convicted of crimes related to extremism and terrorism. At the same time, 32 persons were sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorism.

Meanwhile, according to the Committee on legal statistics and special accounts of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan for January-July 2019, law enforcement authorities registered 4 acts of terrorism in the Unified Register of pre-trial investigations, 40 crimes on charges of propaganda of terrorism, 30 – for creating and leadership of a terrorist group, 1 – for crime on charges of financing terrorism, 1 – for extremist activities’ preparing and 2 facts of extremist training.

How these figures show a possible surge of extremist activity in Kazakhstan, Rustam Burnashev, a candidate of philosophical sciences and professor at Kazakh-German University, told ACCA in an interview.

“It all depends on what time frame we are talking about,” Burnashev says. “If we compare with 2011-2012, when the Law regulating the activities of religious associations was discussed and adopted, then I would not speak about a surge now. Now we have a level of activity’s manifestation, which from the point of view of the current legislation and expert opinions refers to extremism. There is, of course, an important point here – how we determine what extremism is. What exactly do we mean by this phenomenon? Unfortunately, in Kazakhstan, as in other countries of Central Asia, the concept of “extremism” is poorly defined and expanded. Take, for example, the same fine against a resident of the city of Rudny. Of course, it is good that such crimes are fined and not punished by more stringent measures. But, on the other hand, if a person has some kind of literature, but does not promote it, how can it be considered as extremism?

ACCA: At the conference in Bishkek, participating experts came to the conclusion that the only way to solve the problem of the spread of extremism in the post-Soviet space is to consolidate the forces of the CIS countries. In addition, the European Commission has allocated 4 million euros to Central Asian countries to prevent violent extremism and counter religious radicalization. These facts seem to hint that the situation is not so rosy. Or not?

– Firstly, the experts at the conference in Bishkek and the European Commission do not note that there is a surge of extremism. A few years ago, the European Union went over to the concept of preventive measures. And when they give us some means to counter extremism, they just say that we must move on to the gradual development of preventive measures. By the way, they do not use the undefined concept of “extremism”, but a clearer one – “radicalization leading to violence”, because not every extremism and not every radicalization is a problem. And now, in the opinion of the European Union, now we can work with those factors that lead to violence, carry out prevention, clarification, etc.

As for the experts’ speeches at the conference, here we are talking about the fact that a certain number of organizations and associations operate in our region: the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). But at the same time, different determinants for such activity – extremism or radical activity – are operating in our countries. For example, Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in some countries, and not in all. The same question is about extremist literature. A person can go to Kyrgyzstan, buy some books, which are freely sold there. He easily crosses the border of Kazakhstan with this literature. He comes to his home, reads these books, maybe even discusses them with someone. And then it turns out that in Kazakhstan this literature is prohibited, and appropriate measures are applied to this person. It is clear that ignorance of laws does not exempt from liability. But, a person who has easily bought a book in Kyrgyzstan cannot even suspect that it is banned in Kazakhstan. There were cases when young people from Kazakhstan went to Uzbekistan and were detained at the border and condemned for real terms simply because they had some kind of video on the phone that was not banned in Kazakhstan, but banned in Uzbekistan. And this question of unification of space, the development of some common criteria will make life easier not only for ordinary citizens, but also for law enforcement agencies, as well as structures that work to prevent extremism.

ACCA: And how do you assess the overall actions of the Kazakh authorities to campaign and prevent extremism?

– This is quite difficult to judge, because often the information on this, unfortunately, is closed. We do not have serious studies: Who is really convicted, under what articles, how was the investigation conducted, how is the process of rehabilitation of such people going? Unfortunately, this information is confidential. Therefore, it is very difficult to assess how effective this work is. There are, of course, indirect criteria. For example, we do not have terrorist acts. It shows that the authorities are working. On the other hand, we must look, do we have any grounds for terrorist attacks? Or there are no terrorist attacks, because there is no reason. This field, unfortunately, remains closed. If law enforcement agencies gave researchers access to this information, then this could be judged more specifically.

ACCA: And if you appraise the situation on the example of the operations “Zhusan” and “Zhusan-2” (operations to return the Kazakh citizens from Syria). What can you say?

– I did not see reporting on these operations. In addition, it is obvious that a little time has passed. Less than a year has passed since the return of the first group of people. There are very serious questions about the effectiveness of this program. When evaluating the methodology of working with adolescents, experts said that the results of this work can only be seen in a few years. If we talk about women, the situation is the same there. They went through the documentation procedure; the investigating authorities and psychologists worked with them. But the question “how can they integrate into society?” still remains open. And then, if you appraise the operations “Zhusan” from a technical point of view, they were done well – the identification of citizens of Kazakhstan in Syria and their further return to Kazakhstan. However, the question of their subsequent rehabilitation, I repeat, remains open. By these operations, I would not judge the work of state bodies of Kazakhstan concerning the struggle and the prevention of extremism, since these are one-time actions.

ACCA: And concerning the prohibitive work, if in Kazakhstan, the list of the prohibited sites and prohibited organizations is regularly updated and corrected? For example, earlier some organizations could be banned, for example, at the republican level, but now even district courts have such a right. Isn’t it an indicator of the correct position of the state?

– On the one hand, such measures indicate the activity of law enforcement and judicial authorities in these matters. On the other, there is an opposite problem. Unfortunately, we have negative experience in the judicial system of Kazakhstan. I do not want and cannot criticize it as a whole, but, nevertheless, we see that there are many committed decisions and decisions that were clearly not dictated by the ideas of justice. Therefore, local solutions can lead to the prohibition of some structures, not because they are dangerous, but simply because someone does not like them. The same goes for the literature or the activities of some missionaries. Therefore, I can’t say that prohibitive measures indicate the effectiveness of the state’s work in this matter. Moreover, from my point of view, prohibitive measures on the contrary indicate that some structures cannot manage their functions and choose not the most effective, but the simplest solution. Close a site or page in social networks is easier than ever. But this method does not allow you to monitor later people who visited this site in order to understand how radicalized they were or how they were imbued with ideas of violence. And prevention then becomes more complicated. Therefore, in my opinion, prohibitive measures show more failures in work than its effectiveness.

ACCA: What makes an average Kazakh citizen be radicalized?

– It is impossible to answer this question. Once again, I want to note that I am talking about radicalization leading to violence. Because simply radicalization is not a problem. Any young person can be radically inclined and want some sharp positive changes. And this is cool if it does not lead to violence. But the transition to violence can be caused by a million factors, both systemic and individual. Of course, there are certain risk groups where people are more inclined to radicalization leading to violence. But, in each region, these groups are quite specific. For example, in Europe, a child in a large family may be inclined to violence, and in Uzbekistan, a child in a large family may be less inclined to violence. All this is extremely specific.

ACCA: Are there any recommendations what the state should do to reduce the level of violent extremism?

– Of course, there is a set of universal rules, to which authorities make a country specification. One of such recommendations is to create an independent and fair judicial system. This recommendation is offered to all countries that want to reduce the level of radicalization leading to violence. The same recommendations exist on the work of law enforcement agencies. Then this recommendation is corrected according to the specification of the country. For example, it was proposed for Kazakhstan to develop the institute of district police officers so that they would live and work on the same site for a long period of time, and at the same time they would be ensured career growth and conferment of regular ranks. This is a rather serious question, because the rank of the police depends on the position. And district police officers are forced to work at the same position.

There is a lower level of recommendations. For example, working with risk groups – adolescents, youth and so on.

There are many such recommendations. They have the form of massive reference books and all these things at the universal level are described in detail.

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