Gulmurod Halimov, the missing Tajik OMON commander (well, former commander now) has apparently turned up — and not in Turkish custody as was reported last week. Halimov is the latest ISIS video star.
The 12 minute video, which is polished and features a techy, Matrix-like intro, was posted on May 27. It begins with a montage of video clips showing news reports of Halimov’s disappearance and then shows him, with a black wrap around his head, holding a rifle, and talking at length about himself and why he joined ISIS. The video ends with Halimov (presumably, though he is not shown) shooting a tomato.
Halimov, in the video, explains his radicalization as a response to the Tajik state’s crackdown on religion — mentioning restrictions on public prayer and Islamic dress. From RFE/RL:
Halimov, a father of eight, says that Tajik labor migrants “must stop serving infidels” in Russia and join IS in Syria and Iraq in order to establish Shari’a law in other countries, including Tajikistan.
In his video statement, made mostly in Russian, Halimov calls democracy “a religion of infidels” and describes Americans as “pigs,” threatening that “we will come to you to kill you all.”
He also mentions his trips to the United States — to train with Special Operations Forces and Blackwater — as reasons for his radicalization. While his family told RFE/RL that Halimov never mentioned ISIS, unnamed friends told Asia-Plus that he’d been talking about going to Syria for some time.
One Tajik analyst, Abdulloh Muhaqqiq, quickly pinned Halimov’s defection on Salafists, telling Asia-Plus:
It is clear that the key factor for Tajik youth traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside ISIL militants is propagation of Salafi ideas in the country.
Over the past 15 years, Salafists have brainwashed dozens of people working in the country’s law enforcement authorities and government bodies. As a matter of fact, they have undermined the authority of the government. Unfortunately, we do not know how many officials became Salafists. We do not know how many lawyers, journalists, mullahs, and imam-khatibs are propagating Salafi ideas among the population.
This has largely been the logic behind Tajikistan’s crackdown on religious, particularly Islamic, expression. The state has banned women from wearing hijabs in schools, and in recent months there a number of men have reported being nabbed by security officers and having their beards forcibly shaved. The state also set an age limit on those who could apply to go to Saudi Arabia on hajj this year and is mulling a ban on Arabic-sounding names.
In an April interview, Oinikhol Bobonazarova, one of Tajikistan’s best-known human rights advocates and opposition politicians, said the government was leaving critical issues unresolved — economic troubles and the woes of migrants — and diverting people’s’ attention:
We have massive economic problems, the problems with our migrants, and the current [financial] crisis. But everyone is suddenly concerned about women’s clothing. Apparently that is the most pressing concern. Personally, I don’t think a woman’s clothes are important.
Muhaqqiq, the analyst quoted in Asia-Plus, buys into the rumor that Salafists in the country “operate on orders from their sponsors, first of all Israel and the United States.” He also says that “Mrs. Hillary Clinton recently admitted that the United States created ISIL.”
The authenticity of the Halimov video is, at this point, unconfirmed. It is also unclear on what date the video was shot. YouTube has been removing copies of the video almost as fast as they appear, and one regional researcher noted on Twitter that media and others would likely refrain from posting links, “fearing [the] authorities.”