Staunton, June 1 – “Up to 10,000” young people from the North Caucasus are studying or have studied Islam abroad where they have received “doubtful ideological positions,” the Russian presidential plenipotentiary for the region says, and officials are working on a program to re-adapt them to life inside the Russian Federation.
In an interview in today’s “Vedomosti,” Aleksandr Khloponin says that Moscow “cannot prevent” people from travelling abroad given that “Russia has a visa-free regime with many countries.” But officials must make sure that they do not bring back and spread harmful ideas (www.vedomosti.ru/newspaper/article/261264/programma_po_vosstanovleniyu_chechni_vypolnena_aleksandr).
“According to our estimates,” Khloponin adds, there are “from 1000 to 10,000 of our youth studying or who have studied on the territories of countries” where they “can receive” potentially harmful ideas. Among these countries, “in particular” he continues, are Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Turkey.
“In this connection, we now are developing a program of adaptation of young men who are returning from there. This task has been given to the Ministry of Regional Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Migration Service.” And before the end of the year, there is to be created “a data base” on who had studied what and where.
According to Khloponin, “it is natural that an individual who spends five years in a country where the the laws of shariat operate has an absolutely different understanding of life. We will help this individual. He should not give up his convictions, but he must understand that it is necessary to live according to the rules of the country to which he has returned.”
If the returnee does not change his views, Khloponin continues, “we will think about how to control his further activity. This individual must not work in the educational sector with children or conduct enlightenment activity in mosques. We will work with the Muslim spiritual administrations: they must exercise control within the limits of their competence.”
Asked whether such actions do not violate human rights, Khloponin responded that those who suggest that should consider the problems he faces and recognize that “there is nothing illegal in our actions, we are only proposing a program of adaptation. Ifg you want to work in a private company, fine, no one will interfere.”
Most of Khloponin’s interview was devoted to other issues, to his insistence that the basic task of restoring the Chechen Republic has been “in practice” achieved and that his current challenge is “to develop the economy of this and all other Caucasus republics” in order to find jobs for 400,000 unemployed young men.
Most of his remarks on those issues repeat what he has said before. But Khloponin makes four other comments that deserve attention. First, he downplayed the role of foreigners in financing the militants, saying “why should anyone seek money from Western foundations when it is possible to force local entrepreneuers to pay tribute and obtain a great deal more money?”
Second, he insists, it is now time to end the assignment of positions on the basis of ethnicity. “In order to preserve or not destroy” a shaky peace, he said, Russian officials, including himself, have been willing to “close our eyes” to this practice, one htat “all healthy thinking people” understand is “a survival of the past.” It must be ended gradually.
Third, Khloponin says, he faces a serious challenge to ensure that “in the formation of [party] lists for the upcoming elections, there are not included people who are close to the criminal structures or band formations.” As far as United Russia is concerned, he suggests, the Peoples Front will play a key role in that.
And fourth, he concludes, his being both a plenipotentiary representative of the president and a vice prime minister helps him do his work more effectively. Consequently, Khloponin suggests that in his opinion, it would be well to think about arranging things in the same way in other federal districts.