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Russian News Channel Claims Tajik Migrants 'Recruiting For IS' In Yekaterinburg

A screen grab from the report by Tsargrad TV, a Russian Orthodox channel, on alleged recruiting for Islamic State in Yekaterinburg

A screen grab from the report by Tsargrad TV, a Russian Orthodox channel, on alleged recruiting for Islamic State in Yekaterinburg

A Russian news channel has aired a report claiming that Tajik labor migrants in Yekaterinburg are operating as recruiters for the Islamic State (IS) group.

The recruiters are distributing propaganda videos among Tajik labor migrants showing militants in Syria and Iraq, according to Tsargrad TV, a Russian Orthodox Christian channel that broadcasts via the YouTube video sharing platform.

According to the Tsargrad TV video report, which on March 27 had received more than 20,700 views, the recruiters promising money and a "carefree life" for those who travel to IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq. Tsargrad TV claimed that a Tajik militant known as Umar, who worked in Yekaterinburg's Tagansky Ryad market until 2012, is behind the propaganda.

The recruiters are operating in the same market and also in mosques, Tsargrad TV claimed.

However, the report did not offer any concrete evidence to support its claims.

Are The Claims Real Or Are They Scaremongering?

While there is plenty of evidence showing that Central Asians fighting alongside IS have traveled to Syria and Iraq after spending time in Russia as labor migrants, some experts said the report could be another example of scaremongering, playing on Russian fears of the "Islamist threat" and foreign labor migrant radicalization.

Alisher Ilkhamov, an expert on Central Asian labor migrants at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told RFE/RL that the report could be a mixture of both scaremongering and truth.

According to Ilkhamov, Central Asian labor migrants in Russia are often easy targets for recruiters.

"The very xenophobic environment in Russia, the migrants' communication with Muslims from the Caucasus, and the fact that many of them find themselves in a very extremal situation in Russia, without a job and a decent income, often with semi-legal status, create favorable conditions for recruitment. But the Russian regime tends to exploit the theme of Islamic threat for their own interests," Ilkhamov said.

Fears that Tajik labor migrants are being targeted by IS for recruitment in Russia were expressed in February by Tajikistan's interior minister, Ramazon Rakhimzoda. Rakhimzoda said that 200 labor migrants had left their workplaces in Russia to go and fight alongside militants in Syria.

Edward Lemon from the U.K.'s University of Exeter, who tracks Tajik migrants, told RFE/RL this week that the majority of Tajik militants in Syria spent time in Russia, but said this was not surprising given that over 1 million Tajiks work in Russia.

Sojida Djakhfarova, the director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, said that she has had no information that Tajik labor migrants have been recruiting Russian nationals to join militant groups in Syria.

"Migrants themselves have been recruited mainly by Caucasians and sent to Syria via Turkey," Djakhfarova said.

Djakhfarova said that the Tsargrad TV report might be another case of antimigrant propaganda that is increasingly common in the Russian media, especially in view of the Russian economic crisis.

That antimigrant sentiment is not new, Djakhfarova said.

Before the appearance of IS, Central Asian migrants in general and particularly Tajiks had been widely accused of drug trafficking, which was not true," Djakhfarova added.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena


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