Saudi Arabia – USA – Kyrgyzstan and Wahhabism

27.02.2014 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

32International terrorism and extremism are exported particularly actively in this era of globalization. Almost all countries, where there is a significant proportion of Muslim population, have to deal with Islamic radicalism today.

We can clearly see the manifestations of Islamic radicalism not only in the Middle East but also in the former Soviet Union, where this phenomenon has its own specifics. Non-traditional Islam began to penetrate here most actively in the last two decades, successfully taking advantage of the impoverishment of the population – in some former Soviet republics, and the absence of any coherent state ideology there – for its own purposes. Quickly gaining in popularity, supporters of non-traditional Islam have entered into conflict not only with those supporting the traditional forms of the Muslim religion, common for the region, but also with the authorities. The most radical elements place a special stake on spreading their influence on the local youth who, under the influence of Wahhabi propaganda, join the ranks of the so-called jihadists, and fight for establishing a caliphate both at home and abroad.

Today, it is Kyrgyzstan where these trends have become particularly apparent on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the local political elite does not treat seriously enough the problem of Islamic radicalism and the spread of the Wahhabism ideas in the country, based in which a growing number of organizations, movements and parties are established, including extremist ones involving a growing number of adherents. The unwarranted “liberalism” of Kyrgyzstan legislation helped the Wahhabis to consolidate their positions in the south of the republic. This resulted, in particular, in the Batken tragedy, when terrorist gangs invaded Kyrgyzstan in August 1999 and organized bloodshed lasting several months, showing the true face of their “religiosity”: they left syringes with heroin under prayer rugs in mosques in Kyrgyz villages, where the bandits arranged their strong points.

The Islamic Movement of Turkestan, the Islamic Party of East Turkestan, religious extremist organizations of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jihadism, Salafi and the newly established union of the Jaysh al-Mahdi (Islamic Jihad Union) and several others can be named as an example of today’s truly Wahhabi organizations in the region. Taking advantage of the religious feelings of the local population, its dissatisfaction with the current social situation and the decline of morals – representatives of “political Islam” not only strengthen their positions among the population, but also move on to active forms of struggle, including carrying out terrorist acts. In particular, these include:

- in 1997, Wahhabis blew up a minibus and killed 7 people in the city of Osh;

- in 1999-2000, villages of Zardaly, Korgon, Palal-Ooz, Raut, Hodzha-Achkan, Zhyluu-Suu, Shchutkan in Batken region were seized – 60 people were killed;

- in 2002, the Chinese Consul in Bishkek was killed by an explosion on the “Oberon” market;

- in 2004-2006 and 2008-2009, terrorist attacks were carried out in Batken, Jalal-Abad and Osh regions, where people were killed, including the staff of Alpha;

- in November 2010, there were explosions in Osh again, 3 people were killed and 20 people were injured;

- in October 2011, hostages were seized in Osh, a terrorist supporting Wahhabi ideas was killed.

As a result of an active penetration of Wahhabi ideas in Kyrgyzstan, such radical extremist movements as the Tablighi Jamaat, Hizb-ut Tahrir and the like, spreading their ideology among the youth, began to appear on its territory in recent years.

The geographical proximity of Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and Afghanistan contributed to the active penetration of Wahhabism in the country to some extent. However, perhaps the most important factor in this regard was active striving of Saudi Arabia for this state.

In recent years, Riyadh has been increasingly interested in Kyrgyzstan, actively implementing its interests via foreign investments. In January, the republic was visited by the deputy head of Saudi diplomacy Khaled bin Saud bin Khaled Al Saud. A little earlier, Bishkek was visited by the chairman of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia. Apparently, this rapprochement will grow at an accelerated pace in the nearest future. As it has become known, Saudi Arabia, for example, intends to build a large logistics centre on the site of the American military base of Manas, now being closed. In particular, some rapprochement of Riyadh and Bishkek is due to the fact that the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to Saudi Arabia is a brother of the current Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament Sharipov who, according to some experts, lobbies for Riyadh to some extent.

Saudi Arabia legally exports Wahhabism through the opening of cultural centres, courses of Arabic, and distribution of literature.

The illegal way is through Muslim communities, the Jamaats. As a result of such “missionary” activities, Wahhabi Jamaats outside the KSA are guided not by their Imams, but by Saudi ones. The supreme authority for them becomes not the Mufti of Kyrgyzstan, for example, but the Supreme Mufti of Saudi Arabia, personally appointed by the King of KSA. Jamaats recruit young people for various religious courses, conducted not even in Saudi Arabia, but in third countries.

Together with the investments, Saudi Arabia is actively seeking to export its ideological orientations to Kyrgyzstan, which, as was demonstrated by the example of other countries in the Middle East, are reduced to religious intolerance, repression of other religious movements, blind support of any clerical power, even tyrannical, by religious leaders, and the use of Wahhabism for duping of the population by the authorities.

Taking into account the investments actively offered to Kyrgyzstan by Riyadh, it is appropriate to ask the question: what is the economic benefit of such a step for the KSA? After all, this Central Asian state is not particularly attractive in terms of its economy, but is rather risky for business. Only exports of meat and felt products can be probably called as the trade and economic attractiveness of this country.

Of course, the main reason for the “special sympathy of Riyadh” lies in the geostrategic location of Kyrgyzstan. Strengthening its position there, Riyadh can expect to achieve such goals as:

- political and ideological confrontation with its main and obvious enemy – Iran;

- creation of a basis for opposing China in Central Asia;

- information propaganda aimed at distancing of Kyrgyzstan from Russia and other CIS countries.

In this work, the Saudi monarchy is greatly assisted by Qatar, which is actively clearing the path to the information project of “Al Jazeera” and the development of a close collaboration of its television company with Kyrgyz media by offering its investments.

However, we should not think that all this activity of the Gulf monarchies is carried out without the participation of Washington. We should not forget that Saudi Arabia, being a strategic ally of the U.S.A., is actively used by Washington (especially in recent years) as a bearer of its own interests, an initiator of the “revolutionary process”, a “financial sponsor” of armed conflicts and wars on foreign soil, where the United States itself acts as a large regional player.

Now Washington strategists are strenuously developing various models of geopolitical transformations favourable to the U.S.A. in a struggle for world domination. In addition to open military aggressions against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, they are perfecting the model of “revolutionary processes”, which was launched in the Arab world three years ago. The scheme of a “parliamentary coup” has been implemented with a certain success in Ukraine.

Washington is the initiator of events in such a chain of “political reforms” in Central Asia, and, particularly, in Kyrgyzstan, where the U.S. intends to keep this state in its sphere of influence with the help of Saudi Wahhabis, to replace the current secular leadership with the authority of religious puppets controlled from Riyadh.

Vladimir Odintsov, political commentator, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.