Viral video footage purporting to show Kazakh minors training to fight for ISIS, the Al-Qaeda splinter group that has proclaimed itself a ‘caliphate’ in parts of the Middle East, is all over the Internet. Kazakhstan, however, is doing its best to block out the noise and pretend the problem will go away.
In an extraordinary step, Kazakh officials, whose restrictive domestic legislation prevents the spreading of any “extremist propaganda” within the country's own Internet space, have even written to a media outlet in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan to request that its report on the ISIS footage be “deleted”.
ISIS — who have styled themselves as the “Islamic State” to the disapproval of many Muslims — released a clip showing children from Kazakhstan learning Arabic and handling weapons in a training camp November 22. The videos were initially aired by news outlets in the Middle East, before reports featuring the clip subsequently appeared in media across the world, including Kyrgyzstan's Kloop.kg.
On November 24, the same day the outlet published an article titled “Video of the Islamic State: Children from Kazakhstan Threaten to Kill the Unfaithful,” Kazakhstan's State Prosecutor wrote to Kloop and asked the site to remove the article, citing Kazakh domestic legislation and a UN Security Council resolution 1373 that stipulates “all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the commission of terrorist acts, including provision of early warning to other States with the help of information exchange.”
As the Prosecutor's request became big news in Kyrgyzstan, however, Kazakh media has remained almost completely silent on the video.
The disturbing clip shows Kazakh children assembling and taking aim with a Kalashnikov rifle.
Asked in Kazakh how he sees himself in the future, one of the boys, who refers to himself as Abdullah, says:
I will be the one who slaughters you, O kuffar [non-believer]. I will be a mujahid, insha'allah.
After Abdullah speaks, another boy, also talking in Kazakh, explains life in the training camp:
In this training camp, we learn the Noble Qur'an, the Arabic language, Tajwid [rules for proper proninciation and recital of the Qur'an], and Fiqh [Islamic law]. We learn all this for the pleasure of Allah. We are going to kill you, O kuffar. Insha'allah we'll slaughter you.
With the State Prosecutor issuing a warning to .kz websites not to cover the video, Kloop.kg was an obvious place for Kazakh Internet users to flock. But not long after the outlet refused to adhere to a foreign government's removal request, some Kazakhstan-based readers began reporting difficulties accessing the article in a discussion on Kloop chief Bektour Iskender's public Facebook page.
Sergei from Kazakhstan responded:
Открывайте любой заблокированный глупой властью сайт черед Puffin browser на все мобильные устройства качается с гугл плей/эпп стор и абсолютно ВСЕ открывает! Всем удачи ничего не скрыть уже в 21 веке!
Open any website blocked by the stupid authorities via a Puffin browser. On all mobile technology it can be downloaded via Google play/App Store and absolutely everything opens. Best of luck, you can't hide anything in the 21st century!
Zhenya expressed sorrow at the fate of the ISIS children, who she assumed were from disadvantaged backgrounds:
Следовало ожидать в стране, где дети из неблагополучных семей никому не нужны. Очень горькая правда, но показывает в тоже время как важно заботиться о благе всего общества, особенно, если это касается детей.
This was to be expected in a country where no one needs children from disadvantaged families. This is the bitter truth, but at the same time it shows how important it is to take of the welfare of the whole society, especially children.
Limited coverage of the video was provided by Time.kz, which interviewed Russian political scientist Aleksander Knyazev about the footage. Knyazev called on the Kazakh government not to bury its head in the sand:
Вполне возможно, что это постановочный ролик. Но нужно его изучать, и делать это должны специалисты. Хорошо, если бы это прокомментировали спецслужбы [Казахстана], сказали, какой информацией они владеют, насколько это может быть правдой и какие угрозы может нести для Казахстана.
It is possible that video is a fake. But specialists have to prove it. It would be better if the state representatives of Kazakhstan would share information about whether this video is true or not, and what threats [recruited children] can pose for Kazakhstan.
At least one member of the political establishment has raised his voice on the footage. Speaking on his YouTube channel November 23, a religious conservative MP in the Kazakh parliament, Bekbolat Tleukhan, said the threat the child soldiers posed to the republic was “huge”:
Дети в ИГИЛ – это огромная опасность для нашей страны. Показывать ненависть путем ислама есть самое худшее. Они вовлекают в свою деятельность маленьких безвинных детей, дают им оружия, заставляют говорить “Мы вас зарежем, мы вас зарежем” – хуже этого ничего нет, еще никогда такого не было. Теперь я даже сомневаюсь люди ли они, не говоря о том, что мусульмане. Нам нужно оберегать каждого ребенка в Казахстане.
Children in ISIS are a huge threat to our country. [ISIS] involve in their activity small, innocent children, give them weapons and force them to say: “We'll slaughter, slaughter you “. There can be nothing worse. Now I even doubt whether they are people, let alone Muslims. We need to protect every child in Kazakhstan.
Tleukhan concluded that ISIS is now Kazakhstan's no.1 enemy:
Если сравнивать с временами Советского Союза, то враг всегда был снаружи, а сейчас враг выходит изнутри нашего народа. ИГИЛ – это враг номер один для Казахстана.
If we contrast with Soviet times, the enemy was always outside. Now the enemy comes from within our own people. ISIS is the enemy #1 in Kazakhstan.
According to the head of the State Committee of National Security of Kazakhstan, Nurtai Abykaev, about 300 Kazakhstanis are among the members of ISIS, half of whom are women.