Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, Soothsayers Aren't Exempt From Tax

Many Tajiks hold superstitious beliefs in spells, fortune-tellers, and paranormal powers.
Many Tajiks hold superstitious beliefs in spells, fortune-tellers, and paranormal powers.
By Ron Synovitz
Fortune-telling is alive and thriving in Tajikistan, despite a 2008 law that outlaws soothsaying as a form of "witchcraft."
 
Now, authorities in Dushanbe are pressuring soothsayers to pay income taxes as if the profession was legal.
 
To be sure, some of Tajikistan's fortune tellers are well-known to authorities.
 
Relatives of high-ranking military and government officials are among the clients of the most elite soothsayers -- who often take payments of more than $100 for their consultations.
 
Although 90 percent of Tajikistan's population is Muslim -- a religion that considers soothsaying to be a sin -- many Tajiks also hold superstitious beliefs in spells, fortune-tellers, and paranormal powers.
 
Munira, who lives on the outskirts of Dushanbe, has built such a reputation over the years as a soothsayer that she now has a long line of visitors at her house every day seeking help or advice with problems.
 
Exorcism Of Evil Spirits
 
Munira has avoided penalties for her illegal profession by simply declaring herself a practitioner of "folk medicine." She has even obtained a certificate from the Health Ministry confirming her status as a folk doctor.
 
Women waiting to see a fortune teller in Dushanbe
Women waiting to see a fortune teller in Dushanbe
She offers more than a glimpse of the future. Some clients want her to perform magic rituals to eliminate business rivals or political enemies. Others want protection from their enemies.
 
Women often ask Munira to cast a spell to stop their husbands from taking a second wife. Others seek the exorcism of evil spirits.
 
Munira says she should not have to pay income tax because she considers her work as charity, even though she does receive payments from her clients. That's because she is "helping people," she says.
 
Meanwhile, the lack of documentation for all the fees and gifts that Munira receives poses legal and ethical questions for the tax collectors.
 
For example, would they be breaking the law if they consult another fortune-teller in order to conjure an estimate on Munira's earnings?
 
Also, how can they be sure that soothsayers won't fake their receipts if they see the tax collectors coming ahead of time?
 
Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service 
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