On that ISIS Child Execution Video

I wrote a pair of pieces on the recent ISIS video, which (apparently) displayed a Kazakh child executing a pair originally from Kazakhstan. With the Moscow Times:

[T]he thought that the Islamic State presents some kind of impending threat to the regimes in the region doesn't carry much weight. Central Asia remains one of the most secularized swaths of Muslim-majority areas in the world.

The video will only dent the Islamic State's appeal further. Child executions, alongside the barbarous killings before them, act more as deterrent than appeal for the majority of Central Asian nationals.

Unfortunately, Russian and Central Asian government and security officials will not see the video that way. Rather than presenting any kind of realistic response, governments will continue hyping the threat to their own end, and they have just been presented further fodder for their focus.

And with The Diplomat:

Nonetheless, even if the video was an elaborate, gruesome hoax, fallout remains. Kazakhstan didn’t take long to issue veiled threats to any media outlets that would think to report on the video, and local outlets have so far avoided reporting on the Kazakhstani identities of the victims. This clampdown on media freedoms follows Kazakhstan’s threats resulting from last fall’s video – which saw Astana eventually pressure Bishkek into blocking Kloop, an independent Kyrgyzstani media outlet reporting on ISIS’s initial video. (Bishkek’s decision to block Kloop was one of the starkest examples of Kyrgyzstan’s rights backslide in 2014.)

Regardless of how widely the video will be viewed in Central Asia, the clip presents ISIS’s attempt at a significant escalation in their rhetorical targeting of both Russia and Central Asia. The fact that ISIS saw fit to utilize a Kazakh child in (apparently) executing a pair of individuals from Kazakhstan – especially another ethnic Kazakh – is a move pointed squarely at Astana. The Kazakhstani government claims that it’s managed to identify the country’s citizens – some 300, at the last official estimate – who have uprooted to fight with ISIS. Maybe it has. But these individuals, these children, are still there. And ISIS is seemingly turning them against others from Kazakhstan. Pressure on Astana from frightened citizens and nervous officials will increase that much more. Pressures on the local populations, stemming from governments looking for any way to stem the flow to Iraq and Syria, will rise commensurately. Russia and the rest of Central Asia will follow suit.