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By Maks Maksudov
KHUDZHAND — Citizen patrols have hit the streets of Khudzhand.
In early 2011, Khudzhand created Volunteer People’s Patrols (DND) to help police officers and uphold public order.
“To date since January, 1,273 volunteers have joined in the oblast capital,” said DND Chief Nabidhon Gulmatov, who works under the Khudzhand municipal government. “These are citizens who have volunteered to help the police. Among them are the best-trained students and employees of businesses and institutions – mostly young people.”
This is the first such initiative in Tajikistan and will almost double the number of those maintaining public order. The volunteers will report to the DND chief and co-operate with police.
“Their main task will be to assist the local police officers in patrolling the busiest areas and the city’s micro-districts,” said Tokhir Umiddzhonov of the Khudzhand Office of Internal Affairs. “For now, roughly 50 aides will be on duty every day from 6pm to 9pm, but in the future their shifts might become longer.”
Volunteers will be empowered to detain criminals and will receive benefits, including extra vacation time at their regular jobs, Gulmatov said.
“They are going to be connected to 10 of the city’s police stations,” Gulmatov said. “Each volunteer will wear a red armband and carry a certificate.”
Homid Nureddinzoda, a Khudzhand volunteer, said concern for his hometown’s security prompted him to join the patrol.
“Recently, Khudzhand has become quite turbulent – (there was) that explosion and the bomb that was planted and rumours are constantly being spread about terrorists,” he said. “People can’t be sure anymore about going out in the evening. ... I think that we must help the law enforcement agencies restore calm and order to our city and then throughout the country, since Tajik citizens are a very peaceful people who want stability.”
Other cities and districts in Sughd Oblast are now planning to adopt Khudzhand’s DND initiative, Gulmatov said.
The DNDs are needed because the oblast does not have enough local police, Khusnitdin Nematov of the Sughd Oblast Directorate of Internal Affairs (UVD) said.
“The Sughd Oblast administration met with the Co-ordinating Council of the Law Enforcement and Security Agencies on January 27, where they discussed the shortage of law enforcement personnel,” he said.
“They will eventually hire more people, but they simultaneously decided that the help of volunteers was simply unavoidable.”
The plan is to involve mostly youth in the DNDs so as to decrease crime and reinforce ideological work among the younger generation, Gulmatov said. Today, he said, the problem of youth involvement in extremist organisations is severe in Tajikistan.
More than 80% of suspects arrested for alleged membership in extremist and terrorist organisations are ages 18-25, the Sughd UVD reported.
Young Tajiks often are afraid to report pressure to join extremists or to identify someone who has become an extremist, Nematov said.
“This is precisely why the DNDs are useful,” he said. “These are the same kids you were playing backgammon or ball with yesterday. ... Young people trust them much more.”
Globalisation is introducing various foreign ideas into Tajik society, which can harm young minds, First Deputy Chairman of Sughd Oblast Dzhumaboi Sanginov said.
“Certain segments of youth fell under the influence of students who studied or are studying in foreign Islamic universities,” he said. “However, we have made progress in our ideological work, for example, in the city of Isfara."
Isfarans, who had previously taken a neutral attitude toward current events, have now begun to help track down extremists, Sanginov said. The DNDs will increase the percentage of crimes solved because the members are young and enjoy more trust from other youth, he said.