Roundtable on "Religious Extremism in Kyrgyzstan"

On the 8th of October we hold a roundtable-discussion in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on the topic of “How to fight religious extremism”, with government officials, Kyrgyz experts on the topic and 16 participants from different regions of Kyrgyzstan.


Looking at the current ongoing conflicts of our days, we can observe that a main driving force for people to join violent conflicts is a motivation based on a religious ideology. According to official numbers, by July 2015, 400 young (mostly) men from Kyrgyzstan joined the terrorist groups ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The dark figure is even much higher. Especially the rural areas of the country are very receptive towards radical ideologies based on Islam and thus represent a popular zone for the recruitment efforts by extremists. Within our project we analyzed the main reasons for youth to join terrorist groups and becoming extremists, with particular focus on the role of Islam in that context. Followed by an holistic approach to identify counter-measures and assigning them to different actors of society such as Media, Civil Society, Religious Groups and the government.


The Project:

By using the method of simulation gaming during 4 workshops in different parts of Kyrgyzstan we provided a very fruitful atmosphere for the participants to deepen their understanding of the complex conflict situation. During the simulation game the participants stepped into the roles of different stakeholders and were challenged to find win-win-situations for the actors involved that help to reduce actions driven by religious extremism.

During the Reflecting-Seminar we brought together the participants from the previous workshops, in order to give them the space to discuss their different point of views and their regional specifics. This way we merged the results from the different workshops and in a next step we elaborated recommendations for different sector of society. A very central recommendation towards the state was:

  • The state should offer the people the national ideology in order to unite all citizens. It should lead the people to a bright future, provide freedom of speech, freedom of faith (only the state can offer the people its own historical religion based on Hanafi mazhab/school but other schools can exist).
  • Also the media play a crucial role in raising awareness of the people, why the participants came to the following recommendation:
  • Religious-Peace-Education: Launching a TV-Channel that can be received by most of the people, which promotes a peaceful interpretation of different religions, here especially Islam.

In the end of the Reflection-Seminar we had a Roundtable-Discussion with stakeholders regarding the topic. During the Roundtable the participants got the chance to explain their thoughts and present their recommendations to official state representatives from different sectors. Afterwards the participants engaged in a vital discussion with the panelists and shaped their ideas. On the panel we had the following experts:

  •     Bakyt Egemberdiev, Deputy minister of the Ministry of Labor, Migration and Youth
  •     Marat Torobekov, Secretariat of the Council of Defense
  •     Ak-Maral Gaibbaeva, the State Commission on Religious Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic
  •     Samat Osmonov, Ministry of Interior Affairs
  •     Kadyr Malikov, director of the analytical center "Religion Law and Policy"
  •     Daniyar Muradilov, Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Kyrgyzstan
  •     Murataly Uchkempirov, Ministry of Labor, Migration and Youth, head of the department of work with youth organizations, NGOs

The vision:

We hope to be able to facilitate a fruitful exchange of ideas between civil society and youth in general and the respective state-actors in Kyrgyzstan, in order to focus on the actual causes and to identify creative and innovative measures on how to fight religious extremism. Thus we will try to use all knowledge acquired so far and the many concrete ideas of how to proceed, in order to continue this project in a follow-up-activity.