The city of Tashkent is making it easier for police to sort residents into “insiders” and “outsiders” by forcing everyone to get a new stamp in their internal passports. It’s unclear what’s behind the new measure, but in one of the most corrupt places on earth the extra red tape could provide police another opportunity to stick their hands in residents’ pockets, observers fear.
As of May 14, the inhabitants of Uzbekistan’s capital have been formally divided into two groups, and must line up for the proper stamps to show it. Residents who were born in Tashkent or already have a permanent Tashkent living permit will have one stamp; outsiders, those who have come to Tashkent from the provinces, will have a different stamp.
According to Uzmetronom, a news site believed by some to be connected to Uzbekistan’s security services, the stamps allow police to “quickly determine whether the holder of the document is a native resident of the capital city or region or if he/she came to the capital from a distant region [of Uzbekistan].” Uzmetronom does not say why police must be able to quickly separate residents from non-residents.
The Ministry of the Interior says it is training officials and lawyers on the new law’s specifics, but the regulations are lengthy. Requiring all residents to get a new stamp sounds like a paperwork-generating nightmare ripe for misreading.
While Uzbekistan’s Constitution states that citizens are free to move around the country, residents of all cities have long been required to get a “propiska,” a Soviet-inspired document indicating they are registered and legal to work and live in a specific city. In the past, government officials have made sweeping checks of Tashkent homes to determine who is living without registration or with temporary registration, fining and deporting violators. Authorities have also used registration checks to seize the houses of owners who have more than one home in Tashkent.
The new regulation lists 12 categories of citizens who can receive registration in Tashkent, such as: the spouse of a Tashkent resident (though the couple must prove they have lived together for a year), government officials, military personnel and specialists who have been invited to work in Tashkent.
Since at least February 1999, after a series of bombings authorities attributed to terrorists, it’s been difficult for anyone to receive a permanent Tashkent propiska, a former resident told EurasiaNet.org. “One can't buy a flat without permanent Tashkent registration, which one can't get if not born there or without special permission…authorized by a commission under the city administration, [which meant] of course you can bribe [for] it,” he said.
Though Fergana News says the new law further infringes on the rights of Uzbeks by dividing people into two classes, it’s unclear what will happen when a police officer encounters a Tashkent resident with a second-class stamp.