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Tajik Man Told To 'Kill Everyone Brutally' During Training To Join Islamic State

Tajik Man Tells Of Time With Islamic State Militants
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WATCH: A Tajik man tells RFE/RL of his time with Islamic State militants

"They told us to kill everyone brutally without any compassion, kill children and women, young and old."

This is how 24-year-old Tajik Parviz Nabiev describes the 50-day jihadi training he claims he underwent in Turkey last year as a potential recruit for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Nabiev returned from Turkey last month and surrendered himself to authorities in his native Shahritus district in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon region.

He told them about his radicalization, his decision to become a "jihadi," and his journey to Turkey that ended with disillusionment.

Nabiev says he was radicalized in Russia, where he had been working at a Moscow meat factory.

According to Tajik authorities, a majority of the estimated 300 Tajik citizens who have joined the IS group in Syria and Iraq were labor migrants radicalized and recruited in Russia.

"We got most of the information from the Internet," Nabiev says, but admits "there were people, including an Uzbek man" who would call on Central Asian migrants to go to "jihad in Syria."

"They would explain how to get there and also bought our tickets from Moscow to Turkey," he says.

"Totally brainwashed" by such calls and convinced they were "going to fight for the sake of Allah and become martyrs," Nabiev says he and four other Tajik men arrived in Turkey in September 2014.

As advised by their mentors back in Russia, the men went to a mosque called Imam Bukhari.

Nabiev didn't say who was running the mosque in Turkey's Aydin region but said they confiscated the Tajik men's passports.

A militant waves the Islamic State flag in Syria's northern Raqqa Province. (file photo)
A militant waves the Islamic State flag in Syria's northern Raqqa Province. (file photo)

Meanwhile, back home in Shahritus, Nabiev's parents informed security officials about their son's journey to Turkey.

"Parviz would call us once or twice a month and said he was working and studying in Turkey, but we found it suspicious," says his father, Nasriddin Nabiev.

"We would tell him to come home and explained to him that he has chosen a wrong path," the father says. "We still don't know what made him go there, who was behind it all. He wasn't that type of person."

Nabiev said he and two others wanted to return home, but their journey back wasn't straightforward, since they didn't have passports or money.

Nabiev and his friends spent nearly two months in the mosque mostly learning the Koran and attending lectures about jihad, "killing infidels, Jews, and Shi'as," and "achieving martyrdom as a direct path to paradise," Nabiev says.

"Once we asked them about what exactly we were expected to do in [Syria]," Nabiev says.

The answer, he says, was startlingly clear.

"They told us that, 'Once you are there, you have to kill children without any compassion. You have to kill women. And if you become a martyr, your wives will have to marry other jihadis.' When we heard this, we realized what we have got ourselves into. And we changed our minds."

Nabiev said he and two others wanted to return home, but their journey back wasn't straightforward, since they didn't have passports or money.

According to Nabiev's version of events, he was arrested by Turkish police near the Syrian border and sent to Moscow after spending three months in Turkish custody.

Nabiev says he doesn't know about the fate of the others -- also from Shahritus -- who refused to go to Syria and were stranded in an area near the Syrian border.

After he returned to Tajikistan on March 15, Nabiev was charged with "participating as a mercenary in a foreign military conflict," a criminal offense that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

However, a court in Shahritus cleared him and set him free.

Tajik authorities have repeatedly said that Tajik recruits of extremist groups who voluntarily return from foreign countries and surrender to authorities would be pardoned if they had no prior criminal convictions.

Last year, authorities in northern Sughd Province decided not to prosecute a local man after he voluntarily returned from Syria and turned himself in to police, saying he "was disillusioned after only four days in Syria."

Local officials in Shahritus want Nabiev to participate in and speak at meetings aimed at preventing young Tajiks from joining foreign extremist groups.

According to Shahritus officials, at least four men from the district have joined IS militants in Syria, and two of them were killed there.

"We frequently conduct such meetings, where teachers and mullahs speak to young people, but Nabiev can tell them about the dangers from his own experience," says district Governor Abdualim Islmoilzoda. "Nabiev definitely has a lot to say."

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Orzu Karim
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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