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'Uzbekistan Is Not Robinson Crusoe’s Island': A Crackdown On Revealing Clothes

The first "hudjum" in Central Asia dates back to 1927 when the Soviet government forced women to stop wearing scarves, veils, or burqas. (file photo)
The first "hudjum" in Central Asia dates back to 1927 when the Soviet government forced women to stop wearing scarves, veils, or burqas. (file photo)

A new chairperson for Uzbekistan’s state Women’s Committee was appointed in January -- Deputy Prime Minister Elmira Bosithonova -- and she has certainly made her presence felt since assuming the post.

RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, and Qishloq Ovozi have been reporting this year that Uzbek authorities are developing an obsession with fashion, more specifically “objectionable” clothing, and Bosithonova is leading the campaign.

The list of “objectionable” attire runs from one extreme to the other. Uzbek authorities frown upon Islamic clothing that is perceived as too conservative or of foreign derivation. The “hudjum” campaign has hit several cities in the Ferghana Valley , and the capital Tashkent, and I’ll mention here there was some hudjum in Andijon in June also.

But Bosithonova has returned to her other target recently: revealing clothing. Singer Lola Yoldosheva has already been singled out for her revealing attire on stage (and later for a ballad sung with another female singer that some in Uzbekistan felt had lesbian overtones). Bosithonova did not mention Yoldosheva by name when addressing members of both houses of parliament, notables from culture and the arts, restaurant managers, and singers in June. But she was clearly outraged by the choice of garments some popular female singers have been wearing for stage performances and videos.

“How can one explain the fact that some of our [female] singers are dressed in a more than revealing style, completely divorced from the national [style], and [appear] on television channels intended for family viewing, singing songs with messages that aren’t subjected to any criticism and [in] frivolous [video] clips?” she asked.

The chairman of the Development and Coordination Council for the National Performing Arts, Ikbol Mirzo, was at the event. He said it was time to instill some morality in staged productions “with the help of the law.”

Others noted there were more than 140 “toyhona” in Tashkent, restaurants that cater specifically to large parties, usually weddings, and these “toyhona” had turned into “festivals of vanity,” where people spent far too much money on food and entertainment just to impress others.

Bosithonova told the gathering, “Uzbekistan is not Robinson Crusoe's island. If anyone thinks today there is democracy, that they can do as they see fit, they are mistaken.”

Following Bosithonova's remarks about discipline and morality, three singers were banned from stage and television and 11 other performers received warnings. Well-known singer Anvar Sabirov lost his license to perform after he regularly ignored meetings held by Uzbeknavo, the state agency in charge of giving licenses to performers -- or banning them from performing. Esmeralda "Tamila" Rahmatova was banned from performing on stage after nude photos, allegedly of her, appeared on social networks.

Ozodlik director Alisher Sidikov and Shukrat Babajanov of Ozodlik contributed to this article

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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