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“I Live Only to See Them”. Kyrgyzstanis Wait for Their Children and Grandchildren to Come Back from Syria

The daughter-in-law and grandchildren of the Kyrgyzstani Sabira Osmonova reside now in Syria, her second daughter-in-law and granddaughter returned to Kazakhstan during the first special operation Zhussan. Her son Nurbek left for Syria in 2013, and half a year ago he was reported dead.   


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**All names have been changed..

My son left for Syria all of a sudden. He said he was going to Bishkek to get his car fixed and never came back. We called all of his friends and our relatives, but no one saw him. After a while, he wrote he was earning a living in Albania.

Our family got to know he was in the combat zone from the officers of the 10th department. I didn’t believe my ears until he called me once and confirmed he was there.

I don’t even know what has pushed him to take this step. He grew up without father as my husband died when the kids were little. But his grandparents and I did our best for him and for his brother and sister. Never had he been wicked and never had he caused any problems.

Sabira Osmonova does not know who could recruit her son and where. According to her, he was earning a living in Russia a few years before. And before he went to Syria, he stayed in Kyrgyzstan for a year. He started praying namaz and taking interest in religion after he came back from Russia.

Later on, in his messages, he confessed he made a mistake and he was deceived and that he regretted everything. It was too late, though.

When I faced this problem and talked to other parents, whose children were also there, I knew the majority of them didn’t understand they were going to the war zone. They longed for a perfect life, as the religion promises, but didn’t think what people professed the beliefs to them there. 

«Mom, I’m sorry. I made a mistake , – he said to me.

«Expiate the guilt and start a new life»

According to GKNB, about 850 Kyrgyzstanis left the country to join the terrorist organisation ISIS (proscribed in the Kyrgyz Republic – editor’s note) in the Middle East. According to the Kyrgyz law, persons guilty of terrorist activity are criminally liable. Article 243 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic reads:

Participation of a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic in armed conflicts or military actions in the territory of a foreign country, other than as mercenary or for training for committing a terrorist attack beyond the Kyrgyz Republic, shall be subject to 2nd category imprisonment.

2nd category means imprisonment for adults up to 2.5 to 5 years.

According to the interior ministry, more than 60 Kyrgyzstanis, who took part in military activities in Syria, came back to Kyrgyzstan on their own. About 40 of them are now serving their sentences in colonies with a reinforced regime.

According to UNICEF, currently there are 150 Kyrgyz women and 350 children in Syria. Sabira Osmonova is waiting for her two grandchildren who were born in Syria to come back. After the departure of Nurbek, she lives with her son’s oldest child.

Nurbek got married early, and couldn’t salve his marriage for this reason. After divorce, my grandson stayed with me and we still live together. He is a teenager and he understands everything. He misses his father and suffers because of this situation.

One day Nurbek said he got married in Syria. It was a young girl, who had never been married before. She was also a Kyrgyzstani, born in Issyk Kul region. They have two children, boys, aged 4 and 2. Now all the three of them stay in a camp in Syria.

But some half a year ago my daughter-in-law was reported that Nurbek died. But I, as his mother, don’t want to believe that.

I hope my son is alive and will come back to expiate his guilt before the law and start a new life back in his homeland. I am waiting for my grandchildren to come back from Syria. I live only to see them.

My son had another wife in Syria, a citizen of Kazakhstan. Her 1.5-year-old daughter and she were returned home during the operation Zhussan.

Nurbek didn’t tell us about his second marriage. Polygamy is not accepted in Kyrgyzstan. But then he decided to tell us about that and we spoke with his wife by the phone. They have a daughter. Just recently I went to Kazakhstan and visited my granddaughter.

The example of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is actively working to get its citizens back from combat zones in the Middle East. Today, October 9, the foreign minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan Mukhtar Tleuberdi said they were going to get 14 children back from Iraq.

Earlier this year, three humanitarian special operations Zhussan were held and 516 people, including 357 children, returned to Kazakhstan.

A screenshot of video of the operation Zhussan-2
My daughter-in-law’s whole family left for Syria and sold all their property in Kazakhstan. They were all returned and provided with a temporary housing; medical and humanitarian supplies were given to them. My granddaughter is in the process of getting admitted to a kindergarten, they visit a psychologist and theologian once a week. They said these visits to the theologian had strong influence on them as they had taken Islam only as the recruiters preached it. Now they can see their interpretations were wrong.

I asked the senior members of the daughter-in-law’s family about what had inspired them to move there. I can understand young people who are mindless and thoughtless. They said they trusted in God so much and thought that the places where people followed His laws were wonderful. But they were mistaken and regretted it so much.

“We came to senses only when we crossed the border. No one stopped us or checked our documents when we departed for Syria,” my daughter-in-law’s mother said.

According to them, they were returned with care. My daughter-in-law said no one was rude to them or blamed them, although it was what they were afraid of.

“When we left with one group of Kazakhstanis and another group remained in the camp, we parted with them as if they were our family. The officers hugged their children, whispered kind words to them and promised women to come back for them. We thought they hated us back home for what we did, but they seem to sympathise with us and feel sorry for us,” my daughter-in-law said.

When I heard how Kazakhstanis were returned, I had a hope that our children would be returned the same way and would have free life here. Kazakhstan has set an example of how we can return our citizens from Syria. I hope Kyrgyzstan will follow its example and give a chance to our citizens to get back to normal life.

I don’t know if my son is alive or not. It’s a torture to live having this in mind. I don’t wish it to anybody. If my grandchildren and daughter-in-law get back to Kyrgyzstan, I would feel myself peaceful then.”


This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia».