Thursday, May 31, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Tajik Civil War Refugees to Afghanistan Bring Taliban Ideas to Russia

Paul Goble

Vienna, May 31 – Some of the 200,000 Tajiks who fled to Afghanistan during their own country’s civil war in the 1990s and who were propagandized by Taliban fundamentalists there have now brought the radical ideas of the latter into the Muslim community of the Russian Federation.
Gavkhar Dzhurayeva, the president of the Tajikistan Foundation in Moscow, told a conference on immigration that was held in Yekaterinburg this week that these two-time migrants from her country, first to Afghanistan and then to Russia were “the ideal” carriers of radical, "fundamentalist" Islam (
“During the civil war in Tajikistan, 200,000 people fled to Afghanistan where they came into contact with a different form of Islam” than they were familiar with, she said. And part of them “accepted [its] ideas and began to disseminate them on the territory of the post-Soviet space.”
Initially, these people returned only to Central Asia, but as economic conditions there continued to lag, many of them migrated to the Russian Federation in hopes of finding work and a better life. Not surprisingly, they carried their newfound version of the faith with them.
At the same conference, imams from mosques in the Urals region of the Russian Federation said that “Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Kyrgyzes were distinguished by greater religious literacy than that displayed by Tatars and Bashkirs,” something that gave them a real advantage in religious disputes.
According to Farukh Mirzoyev, president of the Yekaterinburg-based Somon Center of Tajik Culture, immigrants from Central Asia now form “a notable part” of those who attend mosques in the region, with many of them now working as imams or even as instructors in the maktabs, the local Islamic schools.
Given that many of them follow a version of Islam close to that of the Afghan Taliban, these immigrants have attracted the attention of the security agencies of the Russian Federation and those of the Central Asian countries, in particular the intelligence service of Uzbekistan.
Indeed, as recently as April of this year, Russian officials at the request of Tashkent arrested and deported an Uzbek living in Sverdlovsk oblast who the Uzbekistan authorities said was guilty of attempting to undermine the constitutional order of that Central Asian state.

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