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Is Islamic State Using Programming Techniques To Influence Children?


The spread of a video purportedly showing Kazakh children fighting with IS militants has caused great concern in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The spread of a video purportedly showing Kazakh children fighting with IS militants has caused great concern in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

An antiterrorism official in Kyrgyzstan said on December 3 that the purpose of Islamic State's videos featuring child militants may be using neurolinguistic programming techniques to influence children and young people.

Bakyt Dubanayev, Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry representative to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Antiterrorism Center said that the Islamic State group was not just fighting a "war with firearms" but was also waging "psychological and information warfare."

"The aim of terrorism is to spread fear, panic, and terror and this is exactly the aim of these videos, which show the public executions of foreign nationals by beheading. Videos where small children demonstrate aggression, military rhetoric and are armed have exactly the same purpose," Dubanayev said.

The antiterrorism official's comments come in the wake of the release by the Islamic State militant group of a video featuring Kazakh children undergoing military training in Syria.

The release and spread of the "Kazakh child militants" video gave rise to great concern in both Kazakhstan and its neighbor, Kyrgyzstan. Astana moved to block the video and ban its distribution, while the Kyrgyz government asked the editors of a Bishkek news outlet to remove the video from its website.

The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry also warned on November 25 that it had sent material regarding the Islamic State video to the prosecutor-general.

Commenting on the video, Dubanayev said that children copy whatever they see -- whether that is Spiderman, Batman, or child militants in an Islamic State training camp.

"If we begin to show them [children] child militants then where is the guarantee that they will not be interested in this? My Kazakh colleagues note that Islamic State has information technology specialists. It is possible that this video is designed using neurolinguistic programming techniques," Dubanayev said.

Presenting A Counternarrative?

Bishkek's reaction to the release of the video reflects increasing fears in Kyrgyzstan about Islamic State, including concerns that the militant group's propaganda efforts will lead to radicalization among Kyrgyz nationals, and that those nationals could travel to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic State. Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security has said that about 150 Kyrgyz citizens are fighting in Syria and eight have been reported killed.

The Knews.kg website on December 3 quoted Kadyr Malikov, director of the independent Religion, Law, and Politics Center in Bishkek as warning that videos of this nature engender a "wrong" interest among youth.

Malikov's advice on dealing with this situation was to suggest that a counternarrative to Islamic State videos should be presented to Kyrgyz youth.

"There are a lot of videos, but we should not forget to present the opinions of experts. Otherwise things could backfire," Malikov said.

-- 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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