Operation: Jusan

A Story of Rescue and Repatriation from Islamic State

Erlan Karin

Between January and September 2019, the government of Kazakhstan carried out five humanitarian missions to repatriate more than 600 of its citizens from Syria. Thirty-three were adult males; the rest were women and children. The women had left Kazakhstan to become part of Islamic State – either out of personal conviction, or at the request of their jihadi husbands. Some of the children had gone with them. Others had been born amidst the horror of the war in Syria and Iraq, and the consequences of violent ideology; they knew nothing else of life.

Collectively, these missions were known as Operation: Jusan (the jusan shrub, or wormwood, is symbolic for Kazkahs of home on the steppe). Erlan Karin’s involvement took him from the planning stages to the extensive de-radicalisation and rehabilitation programmes that followed the airlifts. Here he reveals the full story of a high-stakes mission that required sensitive diplomacy, meticulous timing and great courage.

Drawing on extensive first-hand accounts from the returnees, Karin also examines their motives in joining the would-be Caliphate, and the role of women and children within it, finally weighing up the risks of returning trained terrorists to their mother country.

This is an adventure story, told with authority and insight – but above all, it is a statement of hope and compassion in the face of one of humanity’s most disturbing crises. 

Erlan Karin holds a doctoral degree in Political Science from Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty. Since July 2020, he has been a Visiting Professor at The American University in Washington, DC. Previously, he was an Honorary Professor at the International Institute of International Studies in Shanghai. 

ISBN 9781911475538 – Hardback – 150 mm x 115 mm – 260 pages – £13.99