Tajik Region to Get Riot Cops it Can Live With
In a move designed to boost confidence in central government, the Tajik authorities are replacing outsiders with locally-recruited men in a riot police squad deployed in the southeastern region of Badakhshan.
Badakhshan, a normally peaceful, remote highland region with its own distinctive culture, was the scene of a brief but violent bout of unrest in the summer of 2012. (See Tajik Rebels Lay Down Arms in Badakhshan and How Will Badakhshan Recover from Violence?.)
One of several factors in the trouble was local mistrust in the police and military, and in the distant government that sent them in. A unit of the OMON or “special police” has been stationed in the main town, Khorog, ever since, and it too consists of men drawn from other parts of Tajikistan.
The hope is that by changing the force’s composition to about 70 per cent locals, the authorities will win greater support among Badakhshanis.
One young man in Khorog told IWPR that he was planning to apply as it offered a way of earning a living. He admitted that OMON members used to get a hard time from young people like him whenever they appeared in the streets.
Other interviewees agreed that the recruitment drive would provide much-needed employment in a region where work was hard to come by.
The deputy police chief for Badakhshan, Rustam Khusravov, says that while the original reasons for maintaining a special unit here have receded, it is being retained and enlarged because of the situation in nearby Afghanistan.
“This year, NATO is pulling its troops out of Afghanistan, and that will inevitable affect the political situation and crime levels in regions near to the border,” he explained.
Marhobo Navjuvonova is an IWPR radio contributor in. Mirzojalol Shohjamolov is an IWPR-trained radio journalist in Badakhshan, Tajikistan.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in