The overall atmosphere in Azerbaijan is grim when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Yet, the release from prison of Taleh Baghirov, a young, charismatic Shia Muslim cleric, goes against the general trend in Azerbaijan.
Four years ago, Moldova’s Muslims, a tiny minority in this overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian country of 3.56 million, won the legal right to organize. But now, following the arrests of suspected collaborators with Islamic State, they face another daunting challenge – fighting the stereotype that Moldovan Muslims are terrorists.
Legislators in Georgia are amending laws designed to hinder Georgian citizens from joining militant groups fighting in Syria. Despite the recent step, some critics contend the government could do more to address the issue.
For weeks, idle Turkish tanks have been watching from the hills in southeastern Turkey as Islamic State forces pound the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, just a few hundred meters across the border. That lassitude has prompted many Westerners to voice doubts about Turkey’s commitment to eradicating the Islamic State.
Before he became a jihadist, Odiljon Pulatov would travel each year from Tajikistan to Moscow to earn money as a construction worker.
“The money I made was enough to sustain my family. But the last time I went there, I met different people, Tajiks and other [Central Asians]. They persuaded me that jihad is a must for every Muslim,” Pulatov told EurasiaNet.org.
His nom de guerre is Omar al-Shishani (Omar the Chechen), and he has gained a fearsome reputation as a commander in the dreaded terrorist jihadi group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But al-Shishani is no Chechen. His birth name is Tarkhan Batirashvili, and he is a citizen of Georgia from the Pankisi Gorge, a remote corner of this South-Caucasus country.
There are few outward signs to indicate the Azerbaijani city of Sumgayit, a Soviet-era hub for the petro-chemical industry, is a seedbed of Islamic militancy. Shops and restaurants sell alcohol, and residents dress casually.
The mayhem and indiscriminate violence that define Syria’s civil war could not crush their entrepreneurial spirit: yet for some Syrian-Armenian refugees, the shakedown practices that are part of Armenia’s economic environment are more than they can bear.
When Olga Ladanova moved to Damascus 10 years ago to marry a Syrian citizen and start a family, she held on to her Kyrgyz citizenship. These days, her family credits her passport with saving their lives.