Uzbekistan is reportedly closing its borders to all citizens from neighboring Central Asian countries in the most drastic measure adopted to date to enhance security for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit this month.
The plan was reported in local media on June 15 and partly confirmed by authorities in Tashkent.
“From June 15 to June 25, Uzbekistan will be halting the passage of people, transportation and cargo entering the country from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan,” KyrTAG news agency reported.
KyrTAG reported that an exception is being made for residents of the Kyrgyz enclave of Barak, which lies fully within Uzbek territory.
Closing borders has long become a customary practice in Uzbekistan ahead of major public events, such as the Nowruz holidays.
There had been rumors earlier this week that authorities in Tashkent would close the city off to all public transport from outside the capital from June 16 onward. Law enforcement officials denied that claim, however. (A report about the claimed transport ban on Nuz.uz has since been pulled).
“The rules regulating the entry into and exit from the city will operate as normal. At the same time, there will be enhanced security checks. During the SCO summit, the movement of vehicles will be temporarily limited to only a few streets of Tashkent,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement quoted by Podrobno.uz.
On June 14, it was the turn of Uzbekistan Railways (Ozbekiston Temir Yollari) to deny that it was limiting the number of trains traveling to Tashkent ahead of the summit, which is taking place on June 23-24.
That was a slight economy with the truth though. People living outside Tashkent have reported that railway stations are not selling tickets for any travel after June 16.
Media can hardly be blamed for suspecting the worst when it comes to Uzbekistan’s over-the-top preparations for the SCO.
Students at colleges in Tashkent and other cities were told that holidays were to start 20 days early this summer to make space for the event. To beautify the capital, authorities have been ordering people along a main road to take down satellite dishes and air conditioner units. Also, the ceremonial traditional breaking of the fast during Ramadan, iftar, has been informally banned at mosques and restaurants — it is suggested this too was a security measure designed to avoid the unvetted mustering of large numbers of people.
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