Turkey could help Russia prevent radicalization of its Muslims, analysts agree

Turkey could help Russia prevent its Muslim population from being influenced by radical groups that have come under the spotlight in the wake of two suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd last week, say analysts.

“Turkey and Russia should establish cooperation not only between foreign ministries and intelligence agencies, but they also need to develop policy together at the academic level on preventing radical groups from influencing Muslim society in Russia, Hasan Kanbolat, head of the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), told Sunday’s Zaman.

He stressed that one-fifth of Russia’s population is made up of Muslims and that they are under the threat of radical groups which have come to the fore due to the terrorism fears in Russia after a Chechen group threatened in July to disrupt February’s Winter Olympics.

A bomb ripped apart a trolleybus in Volgograd on Monday in the second deadly attack in the southern city in two days. The second attack came less than 24 hours after a suicide bombing in the main railway station of the same city, a major transport hub in southern Russia. The attacks have claimed 34 lives so far.

The bombings have raised fears of further violence as Russia prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. None of the radical groups have claimed responsibility, but Russian authorities are focusing on a particular name, Doku Umarov, the leader of a Chechen separatist group, due to statements he made in July vowing to unleash maximum force to disrupt the games.

Kanbolat said the timing of the attacks may indicate the Olympics as the reason; however, the acts of radical groups should be taken into consideration as a whole because their growing influence over Muslim society is concerning .

Turkey has strongly condemned the two bomb attacks on Dec. 29 and 30. “We condemn the terrorist bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Monday. “We send our deepest condolences to the families who have suffered in this event,” the statement said, adding that Turkey is against all terrorist attacks regardless of their goals.

Olympic organizers have introduced some of the most extensive identity checks and other security measures ever seen at an international sporting event.

Commenting on the possible cooperation between Turkey and Russia, Habibe Özdal, Journal of Turkish Weekly columnist, has said some Russian intellectuals said Turkey can be a good role model in Russia’s fight against radical groups.

“Russian intellectuals agree that, leaving the radical groups aside, Russia can focus more on Muslim society in the country and in Central Asia and cooperate with Turkey via experience-sharing to normalize Russia’s relations with those Muslims,” Özdal told Sunday’s Zaman.

She also added that Russia needs to change its traditional way of thinking that considers Muslim society a threat due to the radical groups and let them live freely. “However, when blasts like the ones in Volgograd happen, the state puts security at the center of its actions, which causes restrictions and pressure,” Özdal said.

Suicide bombings have not been uncommon in Russia, but the insurgents seeking to create an Islamic state have largely confined their attacks to the North Caucasus region in recent years. The blasts in Volgograd signaled that militants want to show their reach outside their native region. Volgograd is about 300 kilometers (200 miles) north of the Caucasus and about 690 kilometers (430 miles) northeast of Sochi.

Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of Ankara’s International Strategic and Security Research Center (USGAM), believes that cooperation between Turkey and Russia is possible to prevent radicalization of Muslim societies; yet, Russia’s stance on Turkey’s decades-old Kurdish issue will have a significant effect on determining the framework of this possible cooperation.

“Experience-sharing is possible; yet … unless Russia considers the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) a terrorist group, Turkey may not favor full support,” Erol warned. (Cihan/Today’s Zaman)

source: cihan.com

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