KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- Police in this northern Tajik city are looking for the people who vandalized the "I Love Khujand" sign, a popular local landmark.
The so-called "monument of love" that was put up in downtown Khujand just three months ago is now covered with people’s names, initials, and heart signs scratched in with sharp objects.
The city administration’s Cultural Affairs Department on February 6 called the defacing of the monument “regrettable” and asked law enforcement agencies to find and fine the culprits.
Similar "I Love My (City)" signs are a new trend in towns and villages in Tajikistan, with a bright-red heart emoji replacing the word “love.”
The "I Love Khujand" sign was installed by the private Megafon telecom company as a tourist attraction in a popular area that overlooks a historic fortress, a city theater, and an upmarket hotel.
The sign became an instant landmark and a popular spot with the city’s young people to meet and take selfies.
“Some of them climb on the sign to take selfies. We always yell at them for that,” says a cleaner. “But I’m not here all the time, so I don’t know who vandalized the sign.”
A young couple who were taking a joint selfie with the monument in the background say many Khujand residents see it as “a somewhat romantic place because of the heart sign.”
“It’s a bit misunderstood. It’s seen like there's 'love in Khujand' or something,” the woman says.
In an apparent declaration of love, there are many initials, like "B + A = Love" or "G + E = Love," scratched on the metal surface of the monument.
“It looks so bad. They should know better how to keep our city clean,” says Khujand resident Mumina Shamsova. “It’s embarrassing.”
“It’s wrong. They shouldn’t do it,” says passerby Firdavs Zubaidzoda.
Meanwhile, the Megafon company says it is hiring workers to repaint the sign in the coming weeks, leaving a fresh canvas for the next bunch of loving couples to express their amour for each other.