On May 10, Kazakhstan's interim president, QasymZhomart Toqaev, announced that 231 Kazakhstan citizens had just been repatriated from Syria. On April 30, a plane arrived in Dushanbe from Iraq carrying 84 children whose parents had joined the socalled Islamic State (IS) militant group.
The Central Asian governments were aware more than five years ago that some of their nationals had gone to join extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
As the IS lost ground in those Middle Eastern countries there was the increasingly pressing question of what to do with these nationals should they seek to return to Central Asia. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have adopted different policies regarding citizens who joined extremist groups in the Middle East and their possible repatriation.
RFE/RL's mediarelations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderated a discussion on how the individual Central Asian countries are handling the question of the return of their nationals from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq.
From Kyrgyzstan, Asel Murzakulova took part in the talk. Murzakulova is a research fellow at the University of Central Asia in Bishkek, and also was a member of the RFE/RL team that produced the recent Not In Our Name https://pressroom.rferl.org/notinourname counterextremism project. From Kazakhstan, Keneshbek Sainazarov, the Central Asia director for the Search for Common Ground https://www.sfcg.org organization and also a participant in the Not In Our Name project, participated in the Majlis session. Salimjon Aioub, the acting director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, joined the discussion. And I had a couple of things to say, as always.
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