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Let Them Eat Plov -- Uzbeks Pay To Mourn Karimov

  • RFE/RL

Karimov's memorial services have not yet finished. According to local customs, further khudoyi meals are expected to be served to mark the seventh, 20th, and possibly the 40th day after his death.

Karimov's memorial services have not yet finished. According to local customs, further khudoyi meals are expected to be served to mark the seventh, 20th, and possibly the 40th day after his death.

As Uzbekistan mourned the death of President Islam Karimov, restaurants across the country offered free meals in keeping with a traditional remembrance feast called the "khudoyi."

But in the days following the September 2 announcement of the strongman leader's death, it appears the memorial comes at a cost for Uzbek citizens and businesses, who say they are footing the bill.

Several sources have told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on condition of anonymity that state-backed entities and local authorities have ordered local businesses and ordinary civilians to pay for meals served to the public during Karimov's memorial services in Tashkent and Karimov's hometown, Samarkand.

"There are many private businessmen in Samarkand. The city governor has ordered them to raise money for the president's memorial service meal," said a teacher from Samarkand. "I heard this from a friend of mine who owns a furniture business."

The teacher also said that neighborhood committees had been pressuring locals to donate small amounts of money for the memorial service from local residents.

"The head of our neighborhood told us to donate as much as we can," he said. "Some people gave only 100 soms ($0.03), others paid 1,000 ($0.34)."

According to Uzbek tradition, the khudoyi meal mainly consists of plov, a rice and meat dish, along with salad, bread, and tea. The ceremony usually includes at least one religious figure reciting from the Koran and offering prayers for the dead.

Karimov's khudoyi was held in various locations across the country on September 5.

The independent news website Ferghana.ru published a video that shows a crowd of men lined up behind what appears to be a restaurant door trying to get in. The website claimed the men were queueing for a free khudoyi meal in a Tashkent restaurant on September 5.

"It was again public-sector employees that had to pay for the plov," said the manager of a Tashkent nursery. "This compulsory money collecting existed when the president was alive, and it's continuing after he is dead," she lamented.

Karimov's memorial services have not yet finished. According to local customs, further khudoyi meals are expected to be served to mark the seventh, 20th, and possibly the 40th day after his death.

Written by Farangis Najibullah with reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
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