Uzbekistan is celebrating Independence Day on September 1. There is always much to do ahead of this occasion, including a perennial ingredient in Uzbekistan's preparations: security sweeps across the country.
This year authorities in Samarkand, President Islam Karimov's native region, set a new standard. According to the Samarkandsky Vestnik website, provincial Interior Ministry forces, with quite a bit of unofficial help, have ensured Independence Day celebrations will take place without incident.
The article by Asliddin Ergashev, senior inspector at the Samarkand regional interior directorate's department for protection of human rights and legal support, says that as of August 20 inspections had taken place in "more than 700,000 various facilities, including 3,014 multistory residential buildings, 586,035 courtyards, 13,108 firms and organizations, 85 hotels, 1,851 educational facilities, 1,036 cafes and restaurants, 15,799 trade and other units, over 17,000 other facilities, 110 dormitories, [and] more than 15 very important facilities."
A Herculean task considering only some 1,500 police officers were reportedly involved.
But they did have help, the article says, from "nearly 4,000 representatives of public organizations, such as the public charity Mahalla and the public youth movement Kamolot."
These two organizations are foundations of the Uzbek government's ability to keep control over the country.
Mahalla, which simply means "neighborhood" or "community" in Uzbek, is the government's watchdog organization in villages, towns, and cities throughout the country. The government selects locals to keep an eye on events in their communities and inform officials of suspicious activities.
Kamolot is indeed a "youth movement" but these young people are also supporters of the government, ultrapatriots even, forming an organization not unlike the Komsomol organization of the Soviet era. Kamolot has undertaken civic work, bringing aid to citizens hit by natural disasters, spreading the word about inoculation campaigns, and providing extra eyes to help border guards keep watch on Uzbekistan's frontiers.
All voluntarily, of course.
The Samarkandsky Vestnik report mentions, "As part of operational preventive measures, more than 4,000 meetings were also held at neighborhoods, organizations, and firms of the region to raise vigilance."
The efforts paid off, according to the article. "More than 20,000 violations were uncovered and administrative sanctions were imposed on those responsible for the shortcomings," it said, adding that "more than 3,000 cases of violation of the passport regime" were revealed.
The police and their helpers did not stop there. "During the raids, more than 400 cases of drinking alcohol in public places were prevented. More than 100 people who had been on the wanted list were detained and six citizens who had been previously missing were found."
Unfortunately, the local official did not elaborate on the six "previously missing" citizens, so I have no idea what that was all about.
What seems clear is that Independence Day celebrations will be orderly but perhaps not much fun for the people in the Samarkand region.