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Women Appeal Against 'Impending Hijab Ban' At Tajik City Market

The Qorghonteppa market
The Qorghonteppa market
QORGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan --- A group of women market merchants in the southern Tajik city of Qorghonteppa say they are coming under pressure to stop wearing the hijab, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Speaking for the group, Mavluda Muralieva said that two days ago men who introduced themselves as officials from the regional government said the women would have to change their dress as of September 5.

That followed a recent visit to the market by Khatlon Governor Ghaybulloh Afzal, who was upset that merchants were not wearing national dress. He suggested those who did not should be barred from trading at the market.

Eshan Saidjon Sorbonkhuja, who is Tajikistan's deputy mufti and also heads the Islamic council in Khatlon province, similarly told RFE/RL that "this hijab is Iranian or Arab, these types of dress are not our [national] dress. Clothes that are European or Russian are also not our dress."

The women have appealed to the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and plan to appeal to President Emomali Rahmon to intervene. They stress that Tajik law sets no norms for how to dress.

Haidarali Sherkhonov, who is first deputy director of the Qorghonteppa market, the largest in Khatlon province, agrees. He has suggested that vendors should wear a special overall and a badge to distinguish them from shoppers.

Kamariddin Afzali, the official IRPT representative in Khatlon, said that any directive banning the hijab would be unconstitutional.

Women merchants say they would accept the market administration requesting a change in dress, but they will not accept a ban on the hijab.

The women merchants said they would not compromise, and if they were forced out of the market, they would go to court to defend their rights.

One vendor who wears a hijab said today the women had contacted lawyers who are prepared to represent them.