Crisis Group thanks a group of scholars working on Central Asia for their open letter on our recent work in the region, especially our report “Kyrgyzstan: State Fragility and Radicalisation”. We appreciate their insights on this important topic. We are encouraged that we share many common findings and goals and would welcome a discussion on causes and policies.
We would, however, like to address directly two issues raised in the letter. One is its contention that the report’s “starting assumption implies that crackdowns on Muslims who articulate any opposition to the secular state are justified”. It goes without saying that Crisis Group does not favour the repression or marginalisation of Muslims or any other group. Repressive tactics, whatever form they take, are incompatible with our basic principles as an organisation committed to finding inclusive political solutions to conflicts. We consistently call for peacebuilding, dialogue and work with established Islamic organisations and reject a security-methods-first approach.
The letter also states that Crisis Group’s “data is drawn almost exclusively from Kyrgyz government sources” and that we pursue an “elite interviews-only approach”. In fact, as is typical for our reports, in this case we conducted over 65 interviews with Kyrgyz citizens, few of whom could be classified as elite, in addition to interviews with outside experts. Research was carried out in each of Kyrgyzstan’s seven provinces, and our interlocutors, men and women, included imams, community activists, social workers, police officers, politicians, teachers, university lecturers, current and former employees of the Muftiate, students and teachers at madrassas, Kyrgyz academics and other civil society actors –secular and religious – as well as current and former government officials. Crisis Group’s methodology includes talking to all sides prepared to speak to us – as wide a spectrum as possible.
We share much of the analysis in the letter, including the point that factors that can lead to radicalisation are “specific and multiple, most of them are non-religious, and none of them are sufficient in and of themselves”, and the concern about counterproductive policies. We look forward to exchanging views and ideas in more detail with the authors to advance research on these topics of common concern.