Tajik authorities are confronting the recruitment of their country's young men into foreign insurgencies, a trend that they fear could lead to terrorism within Tajik borders.
In the past five and a half years, the country has witnessed 39 terrorist acts and 233 extremist crimes. The authorities have struck back with police work and prosecution.
"We opened 183 criminal cases against extremists [over that time period]," Prosecutor General Sherkhon Salimzoda said. "We eliminated those groups and prosecuted the extremists."
"Recruiting of Tajik citizens into armed conflicts is happening abroad," Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimzoda said. "This mainly happens in dubious ... schools. ... We have some information on Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and other countries. For the most part, our citizens are already abroad before they go off to fight."
"[Recruited Tajiks] mainly were studying in Egypt and in ... Waziristan," Salimzoda said of what authorities know of some of the so-called jihadists.
Some media, though, have reported recently that terrorist recruiters are also operating inside Tajikistan, and that is a challenge. "Although Tajikistan has the legal foundation for fighting terrorism and extremism and it is a ... government priority, it isn't easy for us," Salimzoda said.
The Supreme Court has banned 12 terrorist groups from operating in Tajikistan, including Jamaat Ansarullah, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and others. However, they continue striving to lure impressionable young men into their fold.
Recently, a page called Jamaat Ansarullah appeared on the Odnoklassniki social networking site. The page contains videos showing Tajik-speaking insurgents, purportedly in Syria. More than 20 masked men and one unmasked man can be seen in the videos, urging viewers to join the "jihad."
In the clips, the militants say that more than 600 Tajik citizens are fighting in Syria, as opposed to a Syrian estimate of more than 190.
Anger among Tajik viewers
The reaction to such efforts at recruitment has been highly negative in Tajikistan.
"I am strongly against the idea of Tajiks fighting on any side in a jihad," Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, a member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan's higher policy council, said.
During the past four years, Tajik authorities fearful of brainwashing have worked to bring back more than 2,700 citizens who had been enrolled in various academies abroad.
"Religion is peace, brotherhood and unity," the chief of the Sughd Oblast branch of the Tajik Ulema Council, Huseynchona Musozoda, said. "We've been hearing that people are committing murder, blowing things up and saying Allahu Akbar ... as if they'll end up in heaven. However, they will end up in hell."
"Preachers should speak from the minbar ... about the impropriety of such actions," Dushanbe cleric Haji Akbar Turajonoda said. "A jihad is when a Muslim comes to help other Muslims incapable of defending their country from non-Muslims. This isn't what is happening in Syria."
Tajikistan needs to find a way to stop jihadist recruiting, various observers say.
"Theologians, the Education Ministry and others should be doing outreach," Oynikhol Bobonazarova, a human rights defender with the NGO Perspektiva+, said. "Not all individuals who go there are motivated by religion. Some are [hoping to make money.]"
"When jihadists come home, we need to work with them," religious scholar Faridun Khodizoda said. "We mustn't lock them up in jail, where they can 'infect' other prisoners. We need to have them look back on the conflict zones and fighting as a terrible dream."