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Tajik Police Reprimanded For Forcing Muslims To Shave Beards

DUSHANBE -- Two Tajik police officers have been reprimanded for forcing Muslims to shave their beards, and have been warned of harsher consequences if complaints by Muslims continue.

Deputy Interior Minister Ikrom Umarzoda told RFE/RL on April 27 that two law enforcement officers in the northern Sughd region were officially rebuked after local residents complained that they were forced to shave their beards.

"We have ordered regional police departments to talk to local residents about extremism, but have never called on them to work with people through force and pressure," Umarzoda said.

There have been increasing reports of police officers' pressuring Muslims across the country to shave their beards.

Amid reports of hundreds of young Tajiks traveling to Syria and Iraq to fight along with Islamic militants, President Emomali Rahmon's government has repeatedly called for the strengthening of secular principles in the mostly Muslim country of 8.5 million.

Tajikistan has banned headscarves for schoolgirls, barred minors from mosques, and forced thousands of students to return home from Islamic schools abroad in recent months amid reports that many Tajiks have joined militants in Iraq and Syria.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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