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MOSCOW, June 9. /TASS/. How come Islamic State propagandists have been so effective around the world, including Russia, why do young people easily succumb to their ideology and what is to be done to protect society from IS soul catchers, Russian experts have been wondering in the wake of the latest reports well-established members of the middle class have abandoned their homes to join Islamic militants. IS ideas are very attractive to youth, and resisting them is a daunting task, analysts acknowledge.
Young lady Varvara Karaulova, a 19-year-old philosophy student of the Moscow State University, who disappeared from her home a short while ago, has been detained on the Turkish-Syrian border in the company of several members of an Islamic State group. A brilliant student, ethnic Russian, who was studying Arabic and several other languages, Varvara had often been seen wearing a hijab (Muslim headscarf) in class. Neither the parents, nor the teachers felt nothing suspicious, though.
Karaulova is now returning to Russia.
Actor Vadim Dorofeyev, 30, who last year suddenly converted to Islam and left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State, was less fortunate. Last December his wife received a text message to her mobile saying her husband was dead.
The Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets has narrated the story of Said Mazhayev, 22, born in the Chechen capital Grozny. Two years ago he went to Syria to fight for the radicals. Now he says: "I can see very well today that I had been brainwashed, just as many other people like me." But then there was no stopping him. He would not listen either to his mother or his wife, who at the moment was expecting their first child.
Said was fortunate. Six months later he was injured and somehow managed to escape from the jamaat (religious group) he was a member of. His recruitment had begun with video clips. The young man says all young guys in Russia’s Caucasus republics these days are literally bombarded with such stuff.
The head of Russia’s federal security service FSB, Aleksandr Bortnikov, said last spring that there were about 1,700 Russian citizens fighting in Syria for the Islamic State. Over the previous year their number had in fact doubled. Many analysts suspect that in reality there are far more such people.
What makes them go and fight a war away from home?
"The greatest threat is the Islamic State offers a certain model boasting some attractive traits we have not assessed properly to this day," the director of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vitaly Naumkin, has told a news conference. "Another risk is the set of arguments being used in efforts to resist the Islamic State is rather weak. The clergy, the scholars and the experts - all lack counter-arguments and that’s nobody’s fault."
Naumkin points to the need for a "comprehensive strategy of preventing indoctrination via the Internet or by other means."
Russia’s leading expert on oriental affairs, Georgy Mirsky, says all those who defected to the IS from Russia and other countries had developed the addiction to the IS ideology gradually, mostly through the world web. "But for the Internet propaganda, possibly nothing of the sort would have happened," Mirsky says in his blog.
"What makes educated young people join the Islamic State?" Mirsky asks. "In the 1930s some educated young people in the West, bored with bourgeois consumerism, joined extremist organizations. Some drifted towards the Communists, and others, towards the Nazis. Affiliation with some influential movement gave the feeling of romanticism and thrill. It was as an alternative to the boredom of bourgeois reality."
"The Islamic State attracts those defiant of the current world order, those who disagree with some traits of the modern world, relations with the authorities or relations with other people," Higher School of Economics lecturer Leonid Syukiyaynen agrees. "Those who believe that this world is unjust and we all are just tiny cogs in a system. The well-run propaganda through the Internet multiplies the effect," he told TASS.
Syukiyaynen believes that stripping the Islamic State of its current strength is the sole way of dissuading potential converts from fighting for the IS.
"And this will be impossible without creating an international coalition of allies sharing a common ground," he believes.
Deputy chief of the state-church relations chair at the presidential academy RANEPA, Veronika Krachyuk, points to the youth policy as the greatest weakness.
"In the former Soviet Union 85%-90% of young people were affiliated with the Young Communist League. The extra-curricular activities available to them for free were too numerous to count. These days a tiny 2% of young men and women are members of youth organizations affiliated with government-run agencies. All others are diluted in youth subculture, which constitutes a favorable environment for recruiting newcomers to all sorts of organizations, including extremist ones."
Radical Islam will be causing considerable influences on many young people as long as the government lacks a meaningful and systematic youth policy.
"The more so, since young people are attracted by the wide international scale of the Islamic State and the slogans of social justice it widely employs," Kravchuk said.
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