From 21-25 August 2023, the Preventing Violent Extremism in Central Asia program (PREVECA), run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and funded by the German Foreign Office, in partnership with Markazi Dastgirii Jamoati Vorukh (Vorukh Jamoat Support Center), a local civil society organization, conducted a summer camp in Guliston/Sughd. 45 girls and boys aged 15-17 from the districts of Isfara, Konibodom and Bobojon Gharufov participated in the camp under the motto "Sozandagoni Fardo" (Creators of Tomorrow), aimed at sensitizing for the various risks of radicalization and violent extremism.
Participants were introduced to the relevant terms of violent extremism and terrorism and the legal basis of countering extremism and terrorism in Tajikistan. In various interactive discussions and exercises they learnt about the relevant role of civil society and useful methods of analyzing problems and developing solutions in the context of preventing violent extremism. Through several games and exercises the youth practiced effective communication, joint decision making and mutual listening. Moreover, a whole day was dedicated to internet literacy and practice relevant knowledge regarding the use of social media. Building on that, participants were particularly engaged when they were asked to use their creativity and received guidance in order to produce photos and films for posting on social media. The program was completed by voluntary pastime activities like swimming or ball games. A climax of the camp was a cultural evening show, prepared and conducted by participants on their own initiative, presenting poetry, dance and songs from their respective regions, playing sketches, doing comedy and other artistic performances. After a summarizing discussion and an in-depth feedback round on the morning of the final day, a festive evening event concluded the camp, where awarded were their certificates, followed by animated games and disco.
International statistics show that youth, and in particular young men, are the age group with the highest vulnerability of being attracted to extremist propaganda and recruitment efforts. Youth therefore form a focus target group for efforts to preventing violent extremism. The camp showed, that youth can be familiarized with and sensitized for challenging topics such as the risks of radicalization and violent extremism in a playful manner, combining subject matter input, interactive methods, games and fun. Such a format can help strengthen cross-cutting capacities such as critical thinking and thorough (self-)reflection, careful listening, embracing the diversity of personalities and approaches, accepting other beliefs and perspectives, taking responsibility for the community, etc. Moreover, the camp offered a rare opportunity for youth to experience learning and getting together in an open atmosphere, where their needs, voices and concerns are heard.
Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Besides having gained an understanding of the risks posed by violent extremism and an awareness about the crucial role of civil society in preventing extremism, many cited the photo and film tips, the interactive games and making new friends as the main take-aways.