In its eagerness to counteract Islamic extremism, Uzbekistan has embraced a Cultural Revolution-style naming and shaming exercise.
Parents are being hauled before public meetings to be admonished for the sins of their militant sons and daughters in scenes reminiscent of the public castigations common during the Cultural Revolution in 1960s China.
“This sacred land, where model family relations are rooted, never forgives those who do not care about their children's future,” a doom-laden TV program intoned on January 26, according to a translation by BBC Monitoring.
“Unfortunately, some people, who have forgotten their parental obligations and are bringing up their children as traitors, do not seem to realize it,” the program – broadcast on the main state channel – said.
TV screens were filled with a sobbing elderly couple whose son is allegedly fighting with militants in Syria, filmed at a public meeting held in the Andijan Region in eastern Uzbekistan.
Although other areas of the country were featured in the program, the choice of Andijan as a venue was telling. The city was the scene of fatal unrest in 2005 which the government blamed on Islamic extremists, a version disputed by many survivors and by international human rights groups.
“What are the goals of these traitors? Who are they fighting for and dying for as dogs?” state TV asked rhetorically in its latest broadside against extremists, over footage of burials in foreign war zones.
President Islam Karimov frequently embraces alarmist talk about the threat to Uzbekistan and the wider region of Islamic extremism emanating out of Afghanistan.
Critics accuse him of talking up the dangers to justify his repressive rule – but reports of a Taliban attack on a power line that disrupted electricity supplies from southern Uzbekistan to northern Afghanistan on January 27 suggest that there is a certain threat.
Tashkent – which campaign group Human Rights Watch says holds thousands of prisoners on spurious charges inspired by their religious activity – regularly uses the state-controlled media and the arts to promote its messages about the bogeyman of Islamic extremism.
Last year, around the 10th anniversary of the Andijan violence, the state film studio released an apocalyptic movie set in the city about an Islamist plot, called “Traitor.”
Although the producers denied it was a depiction of the 2005 unrest – calling the film instead “the tragedy of a family which falls victim to religious extremism” – it was widely seen as a bid to cement the government’s version of the unrest as fomented by extremists with the support of shadowy foreign backers.