Uzbekistani Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov confers with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini in Brussels on October 5. [EU photo obtained by Maksim Yeniseyev]
TASHKENT -- The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU) are continuing to conduct and fund training programmes to help Uzbekistan fight terrorism in the region.
Seminars conducted by the OSCE, for example, are helping Uzbekistani authorities form partnerships among police, local governments and citizens to fight radicalisation.
"Partnership between the security sector, civil society, local government and communities, and the private sector is of vital importance to effectively counter violent extremism," said Ambassador John MacGregor, OSCE project co-ordinator in Uzbekistan, according to an OSCE statement about a November 29-30 workshop in Tashkent on community policing meant to prevent violent extremism and radicalisation.
More than 50 participants from Uzbekistan and abroad attended the event.
At such workshops, the OSCE proposes engaging the public to help police fight extremists. Such co-operation could thwart the spread of extremism and could stop radicalisation, specialists say.
At another OSCE workshop, held October 25-26 in Tashkent, Uzbekistani judges, prosecutors and investigators participated in the OSCE seminar on countering terrorist misuse of the internet.
"It is vital to actively unify and harmonise the national legislation in this area, and thus provide for a more effective correlation of anti-terrorism measures taken at national, regional and international levels," Hans-Ullrich Ihm, the then-acting OSCE project co-ordinator in Uzbekistan, said at the seminar .
The EU is also doing its part to bolster Uzbekistani and regional security.
On December 14-16, Tashkent hosted a seminar on identification and profiling of individuals crossing the border.
Uzbekistani border guards and law enforcement learned about how to profile individuals based on appearance, suspicious behaviour and habits.
The Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA), which the EU funds and the UN Development Programme implements, conducted the seminar.
Since 2003, the EU has spent more than €40.8 million (more than 130 billion UZS) on BOMCA.
Central Asian security was a topic in Brussels on October 4, during the 12th European Union-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting.
"Our co-operation with our partners in Central Asia covers a lot of areas, with an eye also on the security challenges," EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said at the meeting , according to the EU press office. "We share a common neighbourhood, we share deep links and that's why we are engaged more than ever in expanding and enhancing our relations."
Uzbekistan already has a system in place that facilitates co-operation between police and the public on countering extremists.
In 1999, the country established a system of civilian patrols called Mahalla Posbony, reminiscent of the druzhinniki of Soviet times.
The civilian patrols "are established within mahallas [neighbourhood associations] when citizens ... decide to form them," Dildora Khusankhojayeva, spokeswoman for the Tashkent-based Mahalla Foundation, told Caravanserai. "Each patrol has 6 to 16 members aged 18 to 60. They must have military experience."
Each patrol leader receives a salary, she added, noting that the patrols are unarmed.
More than 50,000 Uzbekistanis had joined the civilian patrols by 2013, according to the government.
In the years since the civilian groups' formation, they have been valuable in helping protect Uzbekistan.
For example, "in February and March, Uzbekistan conducted Operation Anti-Terror Sweep," Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman Samvel Petrosyan told Caravanserai. "Mahalla Posbony patrols and police took part ... They solved 2,763 crimes and detained 808 criminals."
In August, as the country's Independence Day (September 1) celebrations neared, "Mahalla Posbony groups were involved in a [crime and terrorism] prevention operation," Petrosyan added.
Such public-police co-operation makes a difference, officials say.
In 2015, 3,750 police stations set up anti-crime co-operation with mahallas according to the government. As a result more than 2,000 mahallas recorded not a single crime in 2015 and the first six months of 2016, according to a statement in September by Interior Minister Adkham Akhmedbayev.
Militants who regard Afghanistan and Pakistan as 'Khorasan Province' in their idea of a caliphate could move the theatre of war from the Middle East to Central Asia, observers warn.
In case of questions about religious issues, where would you look for answers first?