Terrorism

Ashgabat centre lauded for work against radicalisation, terror financing

By Dzhumaguly Annayev

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The OSCE's centre in Ashgabat holds online consultations on combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism on May 27. [OSCE]

ASHGABAT -- The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is commending the efforts of its Ashgabat branch in helping Turkmenistan fight radicalisation, money laundering and terror financing.

On June 4, Ambassador Natalya Drozd, head of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat, presented a report to an online meeting of the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna, Austria, about work that has been done in Turkmenistan.

During the discussion of Drozd's report, the diplomats recognised the efforts by the Ashgabat office.

In particular, James S. Gilmore III, the US ambassador to the OSCE, emphasised the success achieved by the OSCE Centre in Turkmenistan.

He expressed support for the group's co-operation with the government on issues such as combating extremism as well as its efforts to develop an ombudsperson's office in the country. Turkmenistan appointed its first ombudsperson in 2017.

Sharing experiences: a valuable resource

Representatives of Turkmenistan's security agencies who have participated in trainings and seminars at the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat cited the value of studying the international experiences and practices of other countries in tackling today's challenges and threats.

"Thanks to the OSCE seminars, we are, in essence, gaining new knowledge, and we are borrowing other countries' tried-and-true, efficient working methods and adapting them to fit our situation," said Begench A., an official at Turkmenistan's Interior Ministry (MVD).

Begench said that he represented Turkmenistan at a regional seminar organised by the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat titled "Combatting Financing of Terrorism: Best Practices Within the OSCE Region".

This seminar took place in September 2018. Subject-matter experts from all Central Asian countries took part in the event.

"A lot of time has passed, but I think the experience that the international experts provided us with will remain with us for years to come," he said.

Turkmenistan's government also is benefitting from OSCE training in other areas, including ensuring the security of Turkmenistan's land borders as a whole as well as of its border crossings.

Meilis S., a customs agent at the Gaudan-Bajgiran checkpoint on the border between Turkmenistan and Iran, stressed the importance of co-operation with the OSCE as transnational threats near the borders of the Central Asian countries intensify.

"The trainings taught us a lot in our effort to stop the flow of drugs from Afghanistan and Iran," Meilis said.

As a result of these trainings, the volume of smuggled drugs from neighbouring countries has fallen significantly, he said.

New areas of attention

After highlighting the efforts of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat, speakers at the online meeting of the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna voiced some suggestions of their own.

Gilmore, the US ambassador to the OSCE, urged Drozd of the OSCE mission in Ashgabat to devote more effort to solving problems that are cause for particular concern.

Among the topics that should receive attention are guaranteeing human rights when it comes to religion and in Turkmenistan's penal system and developing civil society and independent media, said Gilmore.

Gilmore's feedback was entirely appropriate, said Galina M., a civil society activist from Ashgabat.

The OSCE Centre in Turkmenistan has proven itself in educating Turkmen specialists on international standards and in sharing experience on timely issues such as border security and the fight against corruption, money laundering and terror financing, she said.

Rigorous respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, media and ombudsperson will prove to be some of the most effective tools in preventing radicalisation in the country, she said.

"Human rights activists are hoping that Natalya Drozd as head of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat will reinforce co-operation with Turkmenistan's government in this area," she said.

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