State television in Uzbekistan has reported that some 16,000 people formerly featured on blacklists over their alleged extremist religious convictions have been officially rehabilitated.
The figure was given by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in a speech aired on Uzbekistan 24 news channel on September 1. That date marked Eid al-Adha, one of the major festive occasions on the Islamic calendar and which is known locally as Kurban Ait.
Mirziyoyev claimed that 9,500 people formerly on the list have been given jobs.
On August 31, the president prefaced his announcement on the rehabilitations by talking about the importance his government gives to “returning those that have strayed from the right path to a correct manner of living.”
This initiative has been in full flow since mid-June, when, during a meeting with clerics and other religious officials, Mirziyoyev issued orders for working groups of 10 people apiece to be established in every district of the country to review each individual blacklist case. The groups included representatives from the police, the security services, the General Prosecutor’s Office, local government, neighborhood committees and mosques.
This exercise highlights the substantial refining of the government’s anti-extremism policy, which had heretofore consisted mainly of arbitrary mass arrests. Instead, more attention is now being placed on developing incentives and slightly more refined propaganda — the carrot to the traditional stick.
By some accounts, the impulse for the rehabilitation exercise came with terrorist attacks in Sweden and Turkey earlier this year involving people originally from Uzbekistan.
In another plank of the effort to draw more people into the mainstream of society, authorities have also enlisted the talents of popular artists, like Kilichbek Maladiyev, who released a song in June called “Not Uzbek,” in which the performer condemns people who have brought shame on the country by committing acts of violence overseas.