For the first time, the militant group Islamic State (IS) has released a propaganda and recruitment video specifically addressing Muslims in Kyrgyzstan.
Posted on a video-sharing website on July 25 and titled A Missive To The People Of Kyrgyzstan, the 9 1/2-minute video features a Kyrgyz-speaking militant who urges Muslims in Kyrgyzstan to move to IS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.
The militant speaks Kyrgyz without an accent, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. This suggests that he is almost certainly from Kyrgyzstan rather than being an ethnic Kyrgyz from elsewhere in Central Asia.
Notably, unlike other videos IS has produced -- including those by Russian-speaking militants -- the Kyrgyz video does not reveal the nom de guerre of the militant who appears in it. The Kyrgyz national security service and Kyrgyz police are working to identify the man and the investigation has started, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service said on July 27.
The video has one simple message that serves as the basis for all of IS's recruitment messaging: Since IS established a "caliphate" in 2014, all Muslims have a religious duty to move to IS-controlled lands "from the lands of the infidels," where they are living under "manmade laws and rules, like democracy."
"Praise Allah, today the Islamic State has been formed, the caliphate" -- IS's term for the lands under its control -- "and many Muslims from all over the world are undertaking hijra, that is they are relocating to the lands of the caliphate," the militant says.
The video demonstrates IS's ability to give generic messages while also tailoring its propaganda to the individual audiences it is targeting. In addition to quoting in Arabic from the Koran to show off his religious knowledge and language skills, the Kyrgyz militant also employs some down-home Kyrgyz folk wisdom.
"In the Kyrgyz nation, there is a saying: A man only dies once," the militant says. "And this death of ours should be devoted to obtaining martyrdom in jihad on the path of Allah."
The Kyrgyz militant also provides an answer to the ultimate question of the meaning of life. "The Almighty Allah created us only so that we could praise Him. And best of all forms of worship is to make hijra and wage jihad," he says.
The militant describes a simplistic worldview in which non-Muslim powers are oppressing Muslims and would do so in perpetuity unless IS fought against them.
"Today, the Jews and Christians of the entire world and their henchmen have united and are manifesting a total enmity by oppressing Muslims," he says. "They are banning us from wearing beards and hijabs."
The video was released amid ongoing concerns in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia about IS recruitment.
The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (GKNB) said on July 27 that over 350 people had gone to Syria from Kyrgyzstan, including around 80 women, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service reported.
Propaganda & Power
The Kyrgyz video is the latest effort by IS's increasingly vocal Russian-speaking contingent to project power and influence not just in Iraq and Syria but also in the former Soviet space.
It bears the logo of Furat Media, a new group that has declared itself to be the official outlet for IS's Russian-language media production.
Abu Jihad, an ethnic Karachay and a close confidante of IS's ethnic Kist (Chechen) military commander, Umar Shishani (Tarkhan Batirashvili), launched Furat in June as a replacement for earlier, more piecemeal propaganda efforts by Russian-speaking IS militants.
The launch of Furat is part of a push by IS's Russian-speaking faction to increase the scope of its propaganda and outreach activities across the Russian-speaking world.
One clue that the Kyrgyz propaganda video is part of wider efforts by Abu Jihad's group to demonstrate its increasing power is the fact that it has been given Russian subtitles. These make its message understandable and accessible to an audience outside of Kyrgyzstan, and signal that Furat's reach and remit include Muslims from Central Asia as well as the Russian Federation.
The Kyrgyz video is not the first non-Russian-language propaganda video to be produced by Abu Jihad's group, though it is the first to have Furat's logo and Russian subtitles.
Abu Jihad recently appeared in a video in the Karachay language in which he urged Muslims from the North Caucasus republic of Karachay-Cherkessia to join IS.
There is another angle to the Kyrgyz video, however. By featuring a Kyrgyz militant who is able to speak Arabic, recite the Koran, and talk about Shari'a, Abu Jihad likely wants to show IS that militants from the former Soviet Union, including Central Asia, are just as educated and proficient in IS's version of Islam as are their Arab counterparts.
A hint that IS's Russian-speaking contingent might suffer an inferiority complex in this regard emerged in another recent Furat video, which featured Daghestani preacher Akhmad Medinsky. In it, Medinsky took pains to point out that North Caucasus militants were actually lauded in Syria and Iraq as devout Muslims who refused to give up Islam.