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IWPR Carried on Dialogue Meetings on Religious and Interethnic Issues in Osh Oblast

In the regional centers of Kara-Suu, Aravan, Uzgen and the city of Osh, experts together with local authorities, religious figures and the population discussed urgent issues in the field of religion.

These meetings are aimed at promoting liberal attitude towards religion, tolerance and effective interaction. As well as promoting secularism, improving the cooperation of stakeholders in conflict prevention and the deterrence of violent extremism.

The events are organized by the IWPR office in Kyrgyzstan in conjunction with the State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) and the State Agency for Local Government and Interethnic Relations under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic (SALGIR).

The meetings were attended by 300 people – social workers, representatives of local self-government, local community leaders, students and representatives of religious organizations.

The speakers of the events were Gulnaz Isaeva, Head of the Analytical Department of the SCRA, Nazar Irsaliev, Head of the Interethnic Relations Department of SALGIR, and Zhamal Frontbek Kyzy, Head of the “Mutakalim” Progressive Women’s Social Association.

The issues of religion and interethnic relations have always been a delicate topic in the south of Kyrgyzstan and many events are now being held aimed at promoting tolerance and indulgence. However, despite the great informational work on the part of state bodies and non-governmental organizations, there is a need for preventive work to increase the level of knowledge on religious issues, improvement of interaction between actors and promotion ​​of tolerance values.

The dialogue-meeting program included informative presentations, handouts, and a Q&A session. The meetings began with a report by Nazar Irsaliev, who spoke about the work of SALGIR, dwelt in detail on the values ​​of diversity and mechanisms for promoting ethnic tolerance.

The events were continued by the presentation of Gulnaz Isaev, SCRA, who spoke in detail about the legislation of Kyrgyzstan that is regulating religious activities. An important component of the presentation was the values ​​of religious freedom. Participants were informed about the ban on door-to-door evasion and that religious education is only possible in religious institutions. She also emphasized that every citizen has the right to choose his religion and the importance of promoting the values ​​of religious tolerance as an instrument in the fight against violent extremism.

The first block of meetings was completed by the presentation of Zhamal Frontbek Kyzy, who talked about the balance between secularism and religion. She also focused the audience’s attention on the role of the local community in solving pressing problems, and the need for interaction between all actors.

Having extensive experience in promoting women’s rights, Zhamal Frontbek Kyzy spoke about the importance of ensuring young girls’ access to education.

 “I would like to thank the organizers of the dialogue meetings. This is an excellent opportunity to express our problems to the population, as well as to receive answers to difficult questions regarding the consequences caused by the departure of our citizens to Syria. I want to note that the meetings are informative in nature, but we also must not forget that we need to deal with other causes of radicalization,”Tynchtykbek Zhumabaev, Representative of the Josh ayil okmotu.

The second part of the events was devoted to discussions and sessions of questions and answers. Sensitive topics were raised, such as religious education in educational institutions, girls’ access to education, wearing religious attributes, and problems of rehabilitation of returnees from Syria and Iraq.

“It is necessary to systematically hold meetings with the population. Every day there are new questions and challenges in the religious sphere. I would especially like to draw attention to the problem of education among girls. Unfortunately, for certain reasons, girls are not allowed to study. It is not right. A simple example is how you will find a female gynecologist if you yourself do not educate your daughters and wives,” said Zhamal Frontbek Kyzy, Head of the “Mutakalim” Progressive Women’s Social Association

 In each of the districts, IWPR came across different questions. In Kara-Suu, residents were worried about the process of growing religiosity among young people. Concerns have been raised about refusing from vaccination and sources of information about religion. In the Aravan region, people were interested in the problem of rehabilitation of returnees from the Middle East.

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Many spoke out against the repatriation process, but local religious leaders spoke out that local people need to accept women, children, and only a humane approach will help in the fight against radicalization.

At the event, information brochures were distributed that contained extracts from laws, reports on interfaith council, religious diversity in Kyrgyzstan, as well as methods of promoting dialogue.

IWPR plans to hold similar meetings on August 22-23 in the Jalal-Abad region.