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The Beard-Busters And Scarf-Snatchers Of Khatlon

Lutfullo Bobobekov, who was made to shave off his "overly long and unkempt" beard by Khatlon police.
Lutfullo Bobobekov, who was made to shave off his "overly long and unkempt" beard by Khatlon police.

Tajikistan's Khatlon region police held a press conference on January 19 to review their progress combating "foreign" influences in 2015.

In case you hadn't noticed, Tajik officials have been working overtime lately to regulate words, names, ideas, appearance, and clothing so that all conform to "Tajik" values, which admittedly remain somewhat ill-defined.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, reports that the head of the Khatlon police, Bahrom Sharifzoda, recounted his force's progress in battling these "foreign" influences.

Sahrifzoda said that over the course of the year police uncovered and closed down 162 shops and stalls where hijabs were being sold and, in the process, those servants of law enforcement convinced 1,773 women and girls to shun the alien headwear.

Police also took into custody 89 hijab-wearing prostitutes during this time.

Sharifzoda moved on and recounted that 12,818 men who "had overly long and unkempt beards" were "brought to order."

Ozodi has a "before and after," or perhaps better to say "strayed and brought back into line" photograph of one of those men (see above).

Sharifzoda's review of Khatlon's law enforcement successes in 2015 is somewhat surprising since Khatlon officials had previously denied authorities were targeting women wearing hijabs or men with long beards.

But these are strange times in Tajikistan as the country's president, Emomali Rahmon, has been moving to solidify life-long rule for himself and in the process has become the ultimate and undisputed arbiter of fashion, etiquette, and especially religious practices.

As further proof, there was a call on January 19 to name President Rahmon's wife the "leader of Muslim women of Tajikistan."

Ozodi reports that Abdullo Muhaqqiq, an expert on religious questions, compared Azizamoh Rahmon to the Prophet Muhammad's wife, Aisha.

Azizamoh Rahmon's qualifications for such a title? She went to Mecca recently and prayed at the Kaaba.

Of course, Muhaqqiq also said Azizamoh Rahmon was the "first Tajik Muslim woman from Central Asia to go to the Kaaba and recite namaz in the mosque there," a dubious claim at best.

Neglected in this conversation about Azizamoh Rahmon being named the leader of Muslim women in Tajikistan was the fact that her husband banned women from attending mosques more than 10 years ago.

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.​

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


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