Religious Extremism in Kyrgyzstan is Stifling Childrens’ Education

In 2022, the Kyrgyz ministry of education detected over 100 children who currently do not go to school due to their parents’ religious beliefs. However, according to the report, Kyrgyzstan: Children Deprived of Education Because of Parents’ Religious Beliefs published by the Central Asian Bureau for Analytical Reporting, and by the ministry’s own admission, this number is most likely much higher.

Radical Islam in Kyrgyzstan

  • In Kyrgyzstan, the extremist Islamic movement, Yakyn Inkar has been growing in influence and has been spreading radical ideology throughout the country.
  • Yakyn Inkar was established in 1926 (link) and one of the main aspects of its philosophy is the idea that technological progress is negative and that Muslims should live like they did in the days of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Until 2017, the organization operated freely, but on June 15, 2017 the Oktyabrsky District Court of Bishkek ordered the halting of its operations on the grounds of going against Kyrgyz law by denying the necessity of education and medical treatment for its followers.
  • According to Manas Amanbaev, the representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Service for Combating Extremism and Illegal Migration, followers of this organization believe that since there were no schools and no education provided for girls during the times of the Prophet Muhammad, their daughters should not attend school.

Government Action

  • According to the Ministry of Education, in 2022, 116 children were identified in Kyrgyzstan who, for religious reasons, did not attend school. However, according to Gulshan Abdyldaeva, chief specialist of the school policy and book publishing department, these statistics do not only include the followers of the Yakyn Inkar movement. The State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA KR) reported that they do not condone the decisions of parents who deprive children of access to education.
  • The State Commission emphasized citizens’ right to freedom of religion, but underscored the importance of education. In 2022, the department held a conference with Yakyn Inkar during which the necessity of schools and education was discussed. However, the department felt that Yakyn Inkar did not take this issue seriously. However, the State Commission maintains that it will hold more events such as these in the future to keep the channel of dialogue open.
  • However, experts note that the Yakyn Inkar movement has been studied very little and that there is no exact data on the number of followers the movement has in the country. Director of the analytical center “Religion, Law, Politics” Kadyr Malikov noted that in order to come up with strategies to prevent non-attendance of schools, it is important to conduct research on the movement itself and the types of ideas and people that are part of it. He believes that banning Yakyn Inkar activities will not help, but more in-depth research will benefit.

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