Overview: The Kyrgyz Republic’s counterterrorism efforts continue to concentrate on rooting out “extremists,” CVE, preventing those returning from conflicts abroad from engaging in terrorist activities, and repatriation of FTF family members. The Kyrgyz government restricts public information on national security issues, making it difficult to assess the efficacy of its CT operations and the extent of the threat. The country remains vulnerable to transnational threats, especially in the remote south, where ill-defined and porous borders allow for the relatively free movement of people and illicit goods. According to government statistics, some 850 Kyrgyz citizens left the country to join terrorist groups over the last decade. The government faces limitations on its ability to investigate, prosecute, and rehabilitate returning FTFs owing to a lack of expertise and resources, as well as potential shortcomings in the legal framework.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no significant changes to terrorism-related legislation in 2021; however, changes to the criminal code increased the penalties for creating and financing terrorist organizations to 10 and 12 years, respectively.
There were no reports in 2021 that the government used CT laws to prosecute political opponents. The Kyrgyz Republic introduced biometric passports in May. The Kyrgyz government does not yet operate an API/PNR system for commercial flights. International organizations and Kyrgyz government officials have expressed concerns that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the State Committee for National Security lacked adequate tools and the legal framework to properly prosecute citizens suspected of committing terrorist acts abroad.
Authorities reported several extremism or terrorism-related arrests in 2021, including of individuals accused of recruiting Kyrgyz citizens to join international terrorist organizations. With assistance from UNICEF, the Kyrgyz government repatriated 79 children of FTFs from Iraq in March. The children underwent rehabilitation for several months in a government-managed center and received psychological and medical assistance before being released to family-member guardians.
The Kyrgyz government provided information to the U.S. government about known or suspected terrorists and reported lost and stolen travel documents to INTERPOL.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, and the country’s State Financial Intelligence Service is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant changes to the Kyrgyz government’s efforts and capacity related to countering the financing of terrorism in 2021. In 2021, the State Financial Intelligence Service fulfilled 125 requests received from law enforcement agencies related to countering terrorist or extremist financing, and 21 cases were registered with the Unified Crime Registry.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Kyrgyz government’s national program and action plan on countering terrorism was in its fourth year of implementation in 2021. Civil society organizations have expressed concerns that the government used the national program and action plan to muzzle free speech and to stigmatize members of ethnic minority groups. Human rights NGOs reported that security services used laws pertaining to so-called extremist materials on the internet to disproportionately target for prosecution ethnic Uzbeks, especially those who followed social media accounts focused on Islam.
The Ministry of Education, with the State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA), continues to implement a curriculum for high school-aged students on “moderate” Islam and to identify terrorist recruitment tactics. The Ministry of Interior and the SCRA, in cooperation with local religious leaders and civil society, organizes CVE trainings to prevent radicalization and religious extremism among youth.
The Probation Department of the Ministry of Justice held trainings with SCRA and UNDP on preventing extremism among probation clients. UNODC and the Probation Department launched a project on post-release monitoring and probation of FTF and violent extremist prisoners in October. As of the date of this report, there were 138 people convicted of less-serious crimes with religious overtones registered with probation authorities.
The SCRA works with the United Nations Population Fund on a project focused on countering radicalization to violent extremism. The project, which is being implemented in 16 madrassas, concentrated on civic education, the role of Islam in Kyrgyz society, and recognition of recruitment of religious youth by terrorist groups. The SCRA and Mutakalim, an organization focused on peace building through religious tolerance, started an internet-based program to counter recruitment to violence, especially of vulnerable youth.
SCRA Research Center, in partnership with Albany Associates, worked on a U.S. Department of State-funded project on strategic communications to counter violent extremism and operationalize the Kyrgyz government’s CVE National Action Plan by developing and operationalizing a strategic communications strategy with a focus on mitigating Internet usage by terrorists. The Ministry of Interior blocked 38 “extremist” websites and 315 photos and videos. The Kyrgyz government cooperated with the UN, the OSCE, and other international organizations and foreign governments to facilitate CVE training and other CVE-related programs. Bishkek, Jalal-Abad, Osh, and Talas are members of the Strong Cities Network. Bishkek City Hall hosted a City Exchange workshop in December.
The SCRA worked with Embassy Bishkek-supported Public Fund “Ulybka” to establish an interfaith council in three southern regions to promote and support the development of interfaith dialogue.
UNODC worked with the prison administration to secure violent extremists and to develop a system to ensure they were not able to radicalize other inmates. The SCRA and various government ministries participated in a conference to learn from the experience of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan on their rehabilitation and reintegration programs for women and children, to understand the challenges of repatriation and rehabilitation of returnees, and to develop recommendations for the prevention of violent extremism.
International and Regional Cooperation: The People’s Republic of China and Russia provided financial, organizational, and methodological assistance to law enforcement agencies in Central Asian countries including the Kyrgyz Republic, regularly conducting joint counterterrorism exercises, providing information on persons suspected of terrorism, and providing military technical assistance, primarily through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The OSCE Program Office in Bishkek focuses on a range of security issues: from countering terrorism, border security, and transnational threats such as human trafficking, to developing the country’s regions, strengthening efforts to combat corruption on all levels, as well as supporting the reform of the justice sector, implementation of election reform, gender equality, and building open and resilient societies.