Volunteers to Police Uzbek Frontier
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||9 June 2010|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Volunteers to Police Uzbek Frontier, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c11f806c.html [accessed 29 August 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
By News Briefing Central Asia Created 9 Jun 10
The Uzbek authorities are recruiting a volunteer police force to help patrol the country's borders.
The force is being set up under the aegis of Kamolot, an official youth movement. Kamolot issued a statement on May 25 saying volunteer squads were being created in "mahallas", neighbourhoods which come under the lowest tier of local government
The Kamolot Posbonlari ("sentinels") will be deployed along the borders with Kazakstan and Tajikistan, and help the law-enforcement agencies tackle smuggling.
An insider source in Uzbekistan says the country's military has a significant presence in frontier areas, and is surely better placed to deal with smugglers than volunteer youth groups.
Nor have there been reports that smuggling has increased along the borders with Kazakstan and Tajikistan. Most cross-border problems at the moment seem to revolve around trains destined for Tajikistan but held up in Uzbekistan; and Uzbek labour migrants having a hard time crossing into Kazakstan in search of work.
Dosym Satpayev, a political analyst in Kazakstan, was surprised to hear the Uzbek authorities felt such a pressing need to curb smuggling.
"Why should youth squads be involved in combating smuggling, when that's the job of customs officers and border guards? Public [non-government] movements should not be doing this," he said.
Any security concerns the Uzbek authorities have seem to relate more to the eastern border with Kyrgyzstan, which has been more or less sealed since that country went through mass unrest and an change of government in April.
"The authorities are not talking about creating [volunteer] squads on the border with Kyrgyzstan, but that can be taken as read," said Parviz Mullojonov, a political analyst in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
Abdurahmon Tashanov of the Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik believes the Kamolot Posbonlari force serves a much broader aim than supporting the police.
"The Uzbek authorities are alarmed by developments in Kyrgyzstan, and especially by the role Kyrgyz young people have played," he said. "So they are not only organising young people into squads, but are also exerting control over them."
Mullojonov agreed, saying that the volunteer force created a framework in which the mood among young people could be monitored carefully.
"In the mahallas, the squads can be used to monitor the situation at grassroots level in order to crush any possible display of discontent or anti-government propaganda," he said.
Akhat Nabiyev of the unregistered movement Birdamlik in Fergana province is confident that by forming youth squads the Uzbek authorities want to show that they are ready to repel any enemy.
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.