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Uzbek Cops Given Six Months To Get Fit For Duty

Uzbek police officers have been told to shape up or get out. (file photo)
Uzbek police officers have been told to shape up or get out. (file photo)

Police officers in Uzbekistan have been handed a sentence of three to six months -- to get fit.

"We have no need for an overweight police officer. How can they catch a criminal?" President Shavkat Mirziyoev was quoted as saying by Uzbek media during a March 1 meeting.

While noting that "they should exercise for the sake of their own health, not for me," Mirziyoev was firm. "We are giving them a deadline: three to six months. During this time, they should get in shape and shed that extra weight."

The president didn't say what action -- if any -- would be taken against those who don't or won't meet the deadline.

In November, Mirziyoev expressed concern about what he described as Uzbeks' increasingly sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet.

"Unfortunately, due to a lack of exercise, and poor nutrition, half of the population of Uzbekistan is overweight, 46 percent have high cholesterol, and 31 percent suffer from high blood pressure," Mirziyoev said during a government meeting that focused on health-care issues.

No source was given for Mirziyoev's figures, which were published on the presidential website. But Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states have been singled out in other studies for dietary risks.

Police officers in neighboring Tajikistan were given a similar six-month deadline to get slim and fit in December 2016.

Six months later, the Tajik Interior Ministry announced that 10 officers had been dismissed for failing to shed excess weight. Some 100 more Tajik officers were given warnings, a ministry spokesman said in May 2017.

Tajikistan also ordered police workers to attend theatrical performances at least once a month to "help boost their spiritual and moral awareness and unwind after a difficult working day," according to the Interior Ministry.

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.