Central Asia: The Call of ISIS

According to Russian news reports, the suspects in the Moscow concert hall attack were from Tajikistan. Islamic State has launched a major recruitment aimed at militants from Tajikistan and other central Asian countries. Why are so many young people there turning to ISIS?

Colonel Gulmurod Kalimov, head of Tajikistan’s elite Special Forces and close to the president’s family, was a man at the heart of the establishment. Trained in counter-terrorism by both the Russians and the Americans, he led the fight against Islamic extremists in Tajikistan. But in April 2015 he disappeared – only to reappear a few weeks later in an ISIS recruitment video calling on all Muslims in the former Soviet Union to come and join him. In the video, he criticised the corruption and incompetence of Tajikistan’s leaders and promised to ‘bring slaughter’ to his former homeland. 

Kalimov was the most prominent of the more than 2,000 Tajiks reported to have joined ISIS and his defection was unprecedented. His incredible story lifts the lid on Central Asia, a region in the throes of upheaval, and reveals the deep malaise pervading former Soviet societies. For nearly 30 years, the predominantly Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union provided recruits for jihadist organisations.  A third of ISIS’s soldiers came from here. They share a common language, Russian, have been involved in bloody conflicts like Chechnya, and are considered the most experienced and fiercest of fighters. Kalimov would go on to become ISIS Minister for War.

So what do young people looking for another life, and Khalimov, who could no longer bear the hypocrisy and corruption, have in common? A shared belief that ISIS is the best way to achieve an ideal of justice and purity. Fed up by the arbitrariness and corruption in this region, whose leaders are supported by the West and Russia, they turn instead to radical Islam. When Raqqa fell, thousands of fighters were able to slip away into Afghanistan,. They say Gulmurod Kalimov is there too, just a short hop from his own country, preparing for the revival of a new the caliphate… 


  • Year: 2020
  • Duration: 52
  • Production: Temps Noir
  • Director: Gulya Mirzoeva
  • Available Versions: ENG, FRA
  • Country of production: France



  • FIPADOC 2021 (France)