In the past few months, the Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) has greatly intensified its outreach and support-building campaign targeting Uzbek nationals and associated diaspora communities. It has also become markedly more bellicose in its rhetoric criticizing and threatening Tashkent while recruiting sympathizers and encouraging supporters to commit violence against the government of Uzbekistan and its security forces. ISKP followed through on its promises and conducted a rocket attack from Afghan soil against the Uzbek city of Termez in April, marking an escalation from words to action and the culmination of the Islamic State’s (IS) relentless saber-rattling leading up to the event.
These Uzbek-directed efforts are increasingly spearheaded by propaganda units operating under and alongside ISKP’s Al-Azaim Foundation for Media Production. Chief among these has been Xuroson Ovozi which partners with ISKP’s Al-Azaim Foundation to produce both original and translated print, audio, and video materials in the Uzbek language. Xuroson Ovozi is overtly involved in the management of and push to grow ISKP’s Uzbek propaganda apparatus and has implemented a system for recruitment that encourages supporters to contact designated facilitators for screening and the subsequent provision of logistical support for travel to Afghanistan to link up with Islamic State network operatives.
ISKP’s Introduction of Al-Azaim Uzbek
Militant Wire has been monitoring and investigating the emergence of a new in-house Uzbek media wing operating under ISKP’s Al-Azaim Foundation for Media Production. ‘Al-Azaim Uzbek’ is a propaganda unit that translates official Islamic State central media materials into the Uzbek language, employing the same format used by other Al-Azaim translation wings. The first publication under the ‘Al-Azaim Uzbek’ title seems to be a translation of Amaq News Agency’s March 8 claim of a suicide bombing by an Islamic State Pakistan Province (ISPP) militant — although it was first posted by ISKP’s Uzbek group days later on March 15.
One notable detail is that Al-Azaim Uzbek uses Cyrillic whereas Xuroson Ozovi primarily publishes in the Latin Alphabet, though, the latter does tend to provide accompanying Cyrillic versions of its releases. Another thing that stands out is how its translations of Amaq newswire attack claims that don’t have embedded photos are much more generic-looking than those that do and do not include the Al-Azaim Uzbek logo.
The introduction of Al-Azaim Uzbek marks another stage in the progression of its campaign to grow its Uzbek and Central Asian supporter base. ISKP has similarly rolled out a propaganda unit targeting Tajik nationals called ‘Al-Azaim Tajiki’, which is more expansive and may provide insight into the potential growth trajectory of Al-Azaim Uzbek.
Al-Azaim Uzbek’s operations include the translation of materials and the management of messaging application channels. Interestingly, it even has its own Telegram sticker set.
The unit disseminates its own content as well as that of Xuroson Ovozi and the Islamic State’s official media releases (original Arabic). It provides timely and consistent translations of Amaq News Agency releases which are then shared throughout the online IS and ISKP media ecosystem. Additionally, these materials are hosted and regularly updated by I’lam Foundation, the pro-Islamic State translation archive project. There are several indications to suggest Al-Azaim Uzbek communicates with I’lam Foundation (as does Al-Azaim Tajiki). Finally, in addition to its use of Telegram, Al-Azaim Uzbek has shared its materials on JustPaste(dot)it.