Villagers in southwestern Kyrgyzstan are demanding that a local council expel a family that they claim poses a threat after at least one of its male members ran off to join Islamic militants in Syria.
Two efforts in recent months have failed to get the Makhmudov family forcibly relocated from the village of Kazhar, in Jalal-Abad Province, a local community leader told RFE/RL.
But more than 150 villagers signed a new petition last week in a fresh campaign targeting the Makhmudovs, saying they are a danger to others after what the local leader suggested was militant "training" abroad.
The local council is expected to review the villagers' demand on April 23, although some officials have already signaled that any forced relocation is unlikely without a court order.
Jalal-Abad police say one of the Makhmudovs, a former madrasah student in his early 20s, left to join Islamic militants in Syria in 2015. An unconfirmed Russian report suggested he has since died.
The young man's mother, Mavlyuda Sharipova, said his father, 52-year-old Khairulla Makhmudov, then left for Turkey in May in an attempt to track down his son and get a job in Turkey.
Much of the neighbors' animosity stems from confusion around the family's efforts to retrieve the son, she said.
The Makhmudov house in the village of Kazhar
A few months after the elder Makhmudov left Kyrgyzstan, Sharipova said, she and two daughters and two grandchildren left the village to join the elder Makhmudov but were detained by Kyrgyz police at Osh's international airport before they could board a plane for Turkey.
She and other family members reportedly reached Turkey via Moscow in a second attempt, but Turkish authorities deported them back to Kyrgyzstan.
"My husband went to Turkey with his friend, Ruslan. Three months later, Ruslan contacted me and said my husband wants me to visit him," Sharipova told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service after her return from Turkey last year. "Ruslan said it might be my last chance to see my husband, so I got scared and took all my daughters and grandchildren with me."
Sharipova said that after returning home from Turkey she received a letter from her husband saying that "everything is fine" and in which he "asked us not to go out a lot."
Some neighbors, meanwhile,, had apparently concluded that the Makhmudovs were collaborating with dangerous elements during their absence.
"There are fears that the family -- after their six-month training in Turkey -- would try to brainwash our youth," the local community leader, Atakhan Danikulov, told RFE/RL.
No charges have been filed against the family.
But in December, residents of Kazhar and two neighboring villages held two gatherings, a week apart, demanding that local authorities move the Makhmudov family elsewhere.
At the time, Sharipova told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that the villagers were threatening that if the family didn't leave the village, they would make their lives unbearable. Sharipova insisted that the family wanted to maintain good relations with the community.
Danikulov said all was peaceful until an "incident" in early April -- reportedly a physical altercation among women within the extended family -- stirred emotions against the family once again.
Officials on the Baltagulov village council that represent residents of Kazhar and several other rural settlements are wary of the villagers' demand.
Local councilors have no right to forcibly relocate anyone without a decision by a court, Mamadaly Parpiev, the head of Baltagulov area council, said on April 18. He suggested the "matter should be resolved through negotiations with the villagers."
Kyrgyz authorities said at least 500 Kyrgyz nationals, including more than 120 women, have joined Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq in recent years.
Written by Farangis Najibullah in Prague based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service