Faced with growing competition and rising battlefield casualties, the Islamic State (IS) militant group has taken a family-friendly approach to its efforts to draw fresh recruits from Central Asia.
Two videos released last week by the extremists’ Russian-language propaganda wing make use of fatherly — or grandfatherly — militants to sell recruits on fighting for IS.
One 30-minute video, in Uzbek with Russian subtitles, features a veteran Uzbek militant in his 60s urging Uzbeks of all ages to come to IS-controlled territory.
A second, shorter, clip shows two Kazakh militants and their sons calling on Muslims to leave Kazakhstan and join them in Syria.
The videos produced by Furat Media are part of an intensified drive by the IS group to recruit Central Asian militants.
This move is likely an attempt to replenish numbers after heavy battlefield losses in both Syria and Iraq.
It is also likely a response to increased competition in the recruitment of Central Asian militants from Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front.
Though IS and Nusra share similar ideologies, they have demonstrated different strategies in Syria: while IS has declared a “caliphate,” Nusra has focused on cooperating with other groups to defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The focus on fighting Assad is a powerful recruitment message for Central Asians, including those already in Syria. Nusra absorbed a major Uzbek militant group, Katiba Tawhid wol-Jihod, in September 2015.
The drive also comes as IS recruitment of Central Asians is getting tougher amid security crackdowns, including one in which a group of 16 Uzbeks allegedly involved in recruiting for IS were arrested in Moscow on March 30.
Uzbeks living in Turkey, meanwhile, have reported being interrogated after flying home to Uzbekistan as part of heightened counterterrorism measures.
A Family Affair
Each of the new videos emphasizes that families can and should move to IS-controlled territory.
The Kazakh recruitment video opens with shots of militants with their children: a young teen, a toddler, and a baby. Both militants featured in the video say they moved to Syria with their families.