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Tajik Mullah's Remarks On Jihad Spark War Of Words

The speaker is the only one among the 22 men in the video who is not wearing a mask. "People should understand you're wearing a mask of Islam," he says of the Tajik mullah.
The speaker is the only one among the 22 men in the video who is not wearing a mask. "People should understand you're wearing a mask of Islam," he says of the Tajik mullah.
A video has appeared on the Internet that purports to show a Tajik militant in Syria condemning a pro-government mullah's stance on the issue of jihad.

The four-minute clip features a self-described militant angrily denouncing remarks made by prominent Tajik mullah Hoji Mirzo Ibronov, who recently expressed concern that young Tajiks were being brainwashed and recruited to fight alongside Islamist rebels in Syria.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service published on May 14, Ibronov argued that there was no jihad, or holy war, in Syria, despite the claims of those intending to lure Tajik migrants to join the fight.

A video posted on the Russian social-media site Odnoklassniki this week features a bearded man -- surrounded by some two dozen gun-wielding masked men -- directly countering Ibronov's claim.

Speaking in colloquial Tajik, he accuses the mullah of misleading people. "The mullah says, 'There is no jihad in [Syria].' I didn't believe Hoji Mirzo would say such things until I listened to his voice," the man says. "How can you say there no jihad here? Children are being killed here."

The man accuses Ibronov of being a servant of the government in Dushanbe. "Today you say you're the government's mullah. What government? The government that is against Allah's laws?" he asks. "People should understand you're wearing a mask of Islam."

He then urges Tajiks to give Ibronov a "tooth-breaking response."

Thought To Be Working In Russia

The speaker is the only one among the 22 men in the video who is not wearing a black mask. While there are trees and the sea in the background, it's not clear when and where the footage was recorded.
Hoji Mirzo Ibronov (file photo)
Hoji Mirzo Ibronov (file photo)
Tajik authorities have not yet publicly commented on the video. However, an Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity that the authorities were aware of the video and investigating it.

The official said the purported Tajik "militant" speaking on the video has been identified by the authorities as Nusrat Nazarov, a 38-year-old resident of the Charmgaroni Poyon neighborhood of the southern town of Kulob. According to the official, Nazarov is wanted by police for his involvement in drug dealing.

Nazarov has also been identified by his family members and neighbors. The family said it believed Nazarov, who is married and has three children, was working as a migrant laborer in Russia.

It is also not known if the men in the video are Tajik. However, the man identified as Nazarov appears to be speaking on behalf of all of them.

Ibronov: 'Not A Jihad'

In his interview, Ibronov expressed concern that recruiters were using propaganda videos, religious sermons, and financial incentives to lure "undereducated" and "impoverished" Tajik migrants in Russia to fight in Syria.

The mullah said the Syrian war was a political and geopolitical conflict, not a jihad, as foreign militants fighting against the regime in Damascus describe it.

Media reports claim there are some 190 Tajiks fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

According to Tajik authorities, four Tajik nationals have been killed in Syria, and six others have been arrested in Tajikistan upon their return from Syria.

On May 22, the Tajik parliament approved an amendment to the Criminal Code stipulating punishment for Tajik nationals taking part in foreign armed conflicts.
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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.

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    RFE/RL's Tajik Service

    RFE/RL’s Tajik Service is a trusted source of local news, attracting audiences with compelling reporting on issues not otherwise covered by Tajikistan’s state-run media.