Researchers in Tajikistan have found that extremist organizations like the Islamic State (IS) group are attracting unemployed youth, including those who travel to Russia as labor migrants.
Hafiz Boboerov, a doctor with the Center for the Study of Modern Processes and Forecasting of the Tajikistan Academy of Sciences, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Radio Ozodi, that socioeconomic problems have exacerbated the issue of radicalization in Central Asia.
Tajik labor migrants who travel to Russia to find work are offered only low-paid, menial jobs, Boboerov said. As a result of the hardships faced by the labor migrants in Russia, some are attracted to radicalism.
"We have seen that [Tajik youth] who have gone to Russia are attracted to these [radical] groups," Boboerov told Radio Ozodi.
There is evidence to suggest that some of the Tajik nationals who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq with the Islamic State group were radicalized in Russia, after having gone to that country as labor migrants.
Friends and associates of Alan Chekranov, a 21-year-old Tajik man who was reported killed near Kirkuk in Iraq recently while fighting alongside the Islamic State group, said that the young man had gone to Russia as a laborer before going to Iraq to fight, and had apparently become radicalized while in Moscow.
"Labor migrants are vulnerable, and organizations like the Islamic State [group] make use of their situation to attract young people from Central Asia into its ranks," Boboerov said.
Boboerov said that the Tajik government should try to tackle the roots of the problem by dealing with unemployment in Tajikistan so that young people would not become radicalized as labor migrants. A recent report by the International Crisis Group on radicalization in Central Asia highlighted the need for Central Asian governments to do more to address issues such as job creation at home for local young people.
However, while the Crisis Group report found that Central Asians were joining the Islamic State group for a wide variety of reasons, Boboerov said that Tajik youths were going to Iraq and Syria for socioeconomic reasons.
"We came to the conclusion that it is precisely socioeconomic needs that compelled these people to go there [to join Islamic State]. Particularly this category of young person, who has access to the Internet, social networks, [and] other modern technologies, as well as those people who are around migrant workers," Boboerov said.
In addition to tackling youth unemployment, Boboerov said that the Tajik government should also look to implementing educational programs to deal with the issue of radicalization among young people. Such a program should not be limited to countering radical propaganda, but should include increasing funding to schools in order to improve general education.
Boboerov also called for greater regional cooperation between Central Asian governments to counter radicalization.
"Unfortunately, the level of cooperation in this area, especially in the region, is insufficient," he said.