Radical Islamists are currently battling for ideological supremacy in Central Asia. A new security flashpoint is imminent.
Central Asia is the land bridge between the conflict-plagued Middle East and the global powers of China, Russia and India. Going nearly unnoticed, radical Islamists in Central Asia are fighting to impose their inhumane regime while the international public’s gaze remains fixed on the terror organisation known as the "Islamic State" and on China’s conflict with Muslim separatists in Xinjiang.
A radical, Saudi-style Wahhabism, in particular, has found fertile ground in the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region has become a source of contention between neighbouring countries and the great powers due to its geostrategic position and substantial mineral deposits. Now, the former Soviet Socialist Republics are threatening to become the next major setting for Islamist terrorism.
In terms of security policy, this is problematic not only in regards to the danger of terrorism. Just like in Afghanistan, Central Asia’s drug trade, sectarian and ethnic fighting and conflicts over water and energy sources are significant for the future of the region and for global security.
The recognition of this is the basis for a new cooperation in research and political consultation regarding Central Asia and Afghanistan to take place between the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), with its expertise in the areas of Islamism as well as violence and security, and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik – IFSH), with its focus on war and peace. Under the banner of "Central Asia and its neighbours", the two Hamburg-based institutes will hold a joint series of seminars with selected experts from the realms of scholarship, politics, the military, the media and civil society. Between April and July, four discussion groups will come together to analyse the intensification of political Islam in Central Asia and its consequences for the security of the region. The goal of the seminars is to produce assessments relevant for global security policy.
Due to both their topical and spatial proximity, the GIGA and the IFSH have been collaborating for years on peace and conflict research. The new cooperation should provide an impetus for a more global approach to tackling questions of security policy. The series of seminars will be led by Prof. Henner Fürtig (GIGA) and Dr. Wolfgang Zellner (IFSH).