The intelligence agency of Kazakhstan has provided an estimate for how many Kazakh nationals are fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and apparently, half of them are women. Nurtai Abykayev, chairman of the Kazakh National Security Committee (NSC), reported that a new fighting unit or “jamaat” was created by these nationals. These estimates come from a video circulated late last year that showed a group of Kazakh militants lead by a man named Sayfaddin al-Kazakhi (literally “the Kazakh”) declaring jihad.
These reports have set off a wave of paranoia and panic among the population in Almaty and Astana about the threat posed by “Wahabi” Muslims, and after reports that locals observed Orthodox Sunni militants gathering in locations around the city, fears have been stoked within the government and general populace that extremists could be anyone. Kazakh political scientist Dosym Satpayev is quoted in the NSC report as saying “we are living in the third wave, when militants who fought for an Islamic Caliphate are starting to return home. The huge risk is that they will start diversionary activities in Kazakhstan. And if before these people were from the margin – uneducated, unemployed, or with a criminal history – now the makeup of the militants has substantially changed.”
However, it must be pointed out that much of these reports remain “scare stories.” There are, however, serious considerations among the heads of state in the CIS that IS recruiters are targeting young Central Asian men. Director of the FSB in Russia, Alexander Bortnikov, has long said that the numbers of recruited IS militants from Russia has jumped to 1,500 from an estimate earlier of around 1,100.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- American and Iranian negotiators met in Vienna yesterday to have bilateral meetings and work out differences to make a final push towards a deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran will have to break par by at least extending the negotiations until next year or risk having sanctions on its economy reimposed, causing another economic depression. The West will need to be seen as making tangible progress on Iran’s nuclear weapons program for domestic support (particularly in a new Republican Congress of next year) to continue.
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President visited Tajikistan over the past two days, signing two agreements in the process. The first was with microfinance institution IMON International and another was with Schiever Tajikistan, which plans to open the country’s first modern supermarket. President Suma Chakrabarti met additionally with Tajik president Emomali Rahmon to discuss the growing private sector and discuss the approval of further investment reforms to attract more FDI.
- Tajikistan NGO’s however, despite the recent visit of the EBRD, are concerned over new legislation that will limit their ability to access foreign grants. Legal amendments recently adopted by Parliament mean that NGO’s there would only be able to receive foreign grants with the approval of the government. National Association of Independent Media in Tajikistan spokesman Nuriddin Karshiboev said that the conference would probably force some NGO’s to close.
- With no luck obtaining support from global energy giants, the TAPI consortium is considering having the CNPC (Chinese National Petroleum Company) be the leader after French oil major Total backed out after Turkmenistan refused to accept a minimum stake of 10% in their gas field specifically appropriated for the project. The four state owned firms of all the nations together lack the individual and collective financial strength to build the pipeline, an additional consideration is the passage of the pipeline through still-hostile areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- According to the recently published Global Slavery Index for 2014, Uzbekistan has one of the highest prevalences of modern slavery in the world, only slightly behind the West African nation of Mauritania. Uzbekistan’s percentage stood at 3.97 percent, or 1.2 million people. Roughly 4 million adults are pressed into gathering cotton during harvest season. In absolute overall numbers, Uzbekistan is in 4th place, behind India, China, and Pakistan.