ICC Note: Kyrgyz authorities estimate that about 600 citizens traveled to Iraq and Syria to train with extremist groups like ISIS. Within the last 12 months, there has been a spike in Kyrgyz operations to arrest “alleged members of ‘international terrorist organizations” who are returning from Iraq and Syria. There are questions, however, as to the motivation of these operations and whether they are actually capturing militants. Extremism is a vague charge in Central Asian states, like Kyrgyzstan, and could be leveled at Christians who aren’t registered with the state. It is important to see if extremism is being used to suppress human rights.
05/29/2018 Kyrgyzstan (Radio Free Asia) – Kyrgyzstan appears to be waging a major battle on its own soil against alleged members of “international terrorist organizations.”
In less than 12 months, there have been at least 28 security operations that resulted in apprehending suspects who Kyrgyz authorities say were connected to terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
The picture is not at all clear, but the frequency of detentions is striking.
Before diving into the topic, some background.
Kyrgyzstan is widely recognized as being more open than other Central Asian republics. Media are generally able to cover a greater variety of stories, including the apprehension of suspected militants; but that also suggests Kyrgyzstan might be the easiest country in the region for militants or people connected to international terrorist groups to enter.
While there are undoubtedly militants returning elsewhere in the region, it is possible their numbers are more limited outside of Kyrgyzstan, given the more rigorous screening in countries like, say, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan.
All the same, Kyrgyzstan might provide a window on the question: Are Central Asia’s militants returning in higher numbers from the Middle East?
For interviews with Amy Penn, ICC’s Central Asia Correspondent, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: email@example.com.