Radicalisation and extremism in Kyrgyzstan: perceptions, dynamics and prevention

Often dubbed the most liberal of the Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan has undergone a challenging transition since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Recent events, including the 2010 inter-ethnic clashes in the southern part of the country, point to instability, but steps since then have been taken to improve governance structures. A parliamentary democracy has been established and the country has not seen any major outbreak of violence since then.

While the country’s recent democratic developments are creating hopes across the international community, its vulnerabilities are also raising some concerns as to how resilient its state and society are to internal and external stresses. The threat of radicalisation and violent extremism are often presented as some of the most pressing security risks and stresses that Kyrgyzstan is facing. This is due to various internal and external factors including the country’s proximity to Afghanistan, the marginalisation of the Uzbek minority, and the rise of global jihadi narratives and movements - against a backdrop of the Syria crisis. However, while this perception exists, there have in reality been very few incidents of actual violence linked to extremist religious narratives or ideologies in Kyrgyzstan. Similarly, there is little evidence of radical ideologies taking a hold over large sections of society.

This briefing examines perceptions around radicalisation, the challenges to effective prevention, and moves towards effective responses to radicalisation.

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Capacities for Peace is a project undertaken by Saferworld and Conciliation Resources and funded by the EU Instrument for Stability.

“...radicalisation and violent extremism have become public issues which come with expectations and demands for action and responses by the authorities: some consider that authorities are not doing enough to address the forms of religious practice that they see as excessive or not ‘traditional’ [while others] see the authorities’ responses as oppressive and disproportionate.”