Not In Our Name: multiple causes for reflection

A new documentary by RFE/RL provides an opportunity to reflect on the complexities of the recruitment of Central Asians to violent extremism and the limitations of research and policy-making on the topic On Monday 6 November, I had the privilege of attending the UK premiere at Chatham House of the new RFE/RL documentary Not In […]

Tajikistan: No Freedom beyond this point?

    Saipira Furstenberg and John Heathershaw offer reflections on their visit to the OSCE (HDIM) meeting in Warsaw, 2018.   On September 10, we visited Europe’s annual largest human rights and democracy conference, the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw. HDIM is a two-week session, bringing together 57 OSCE participating states, and nongovernmental representatives, international […]

Has Uzbekistan’s repressive government helped radicalise its emigrants and exiles?

  The Halloween terrorist attack in New York by Sayfullo Saipov has ignited a debate in social media between scholars of Central Asia on why there are an apparently increasing number of such attacks by Uzbeks. The New York atrocity follows similar events in Istanbul, St Petersburg and Stockholm. Four very prominent attacks within ten months give an impression and suggests a […]

In Effort to Combat Extremism, Tajikistan’s Government Places Further Restrictions on What People Can Wear

In early September, six million mobile phone users in Tajikistan received text messages telling them to “respect traditional clothes” and “make it a tradition to wear traditional clothes.” The messages, sent at the behest of the State Committee on Women’s and Family Affairs, are the latest stage in a government campaign to suppress Islamic clothing in the […]

Edil Baisalov speaks at Exeter on 1 February

Edil Baisalov, Kyrgyz Political Activist A Conversation about Islamic Radicalization in Central Asia 2.00-3.00pm, Wednesday 1 February Amory 142, University of Exeter Edil Baisalov is one of the most well-known political figures in Kyrgyzstan having been a prominent civil society activist and subsequently served in senior positions inside government. In 1999, he founded the Coalition […]

An Open Letter to the ICG from 23 scholars of Islam and Politics in Central Asia

An Open Letter Concerning the International Crisis Group’s Reporting of Islamic Radicalization in Central Asia On October 3, 2016, the International Crisis Group (ICG), an influential independent research organization, released another report on Islamic radicalization in Central Asia. The report—Kyrgyzstan: State Fragility and Radicalisation—follows previous publications on Tajikistan (2016, 2011, 2009) and Kyrgyzstan (2015, 2009) […]

Why do Central Asians join ISIS?

What little we know suggests that the non-religious reasons Central Asians join ISIS are more important than the religious factors often cited by analysts. Cover Photo: Former Tajik OMON commander, Gulmurod Halimov   Credit: YouTube For almost a year, the foremost question in the minds of security analysts of Central Asia has been why some […]

What does the impending demise of the IRPT mean for Tajikistan?

What does the loss of political status for the IRPT mean for Tajikistan?  And why do Western governments apparently no longer speak in its favour behind closed doors? By John Heathershaw Photo credit (frontpage):  David Trilling / On 8 July, 2015, the state news agency of the Republic of Tajikistan, Khovar, announced the loss of […]

Is Tajikistan Really Jihad’s Next Frontier?

The spectacular defection of Tajikistan’s paramilitary commander Gulmurod Halimov to the Islamic State has caused an unprecedented flurry of English language press coverage of Tajikistan. Articles and op-eds on the situation have been published by the New York Times, Vice News, CNN and Washington Post amongst others. Long-standing predictor of the Central Asian fall, Ahmed […]

What does the Halimov defection tell us about Tajikistan?

Cover photo: Still from ISIS video with Gulmurod Halimov    Credit: YouTube What does the Gulmurod Halimov defection tell us about the threat of ISIS and Tajikistan’s security? By John Heathershaw The defection of Gulmurod Halimov from his position at the head of Tajikistan’s Ministry of Interior’s special forces (OMON) to the Islamic State in […]

Who Says Syria’s Calling? Why It Is Sometimes Better to Admit That We Just Do Not Know

Cover Photo: Tajik fighter Olim Yusuf    Credit: YouTube The International Crisis Group’s (ICG) latest report on the radicalization of Muslims in Central Asia, Syria Calling: Radicalization in Central Asia (20 Jan 2015), focuses specifically on the recruitment of Central Asians to Islamic State (IS) and the consequences of this phenomenon for the region’s security. This […]

Tajiks fighters in Iraq: What do the latest series of videos tell us?

Cover Photo: Abu Muhammed Tojiki    Credit: Odnoklassniki In December 2014, thirteen videos of Tajik jihadists fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq appeared on the Russian social networking site Odnoklassniki (Classmates). These are the first videos made by Tajiks in Iraq to be published online. At least eight different Tajik fighters appear in the […]