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Tajik Official Charged With Hajj Bribery

The number of Tajiks wishing to travel to Mecca for the hajj far exceeds the allocated quota of pilgrimage places.
QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- A regional Tajik official responsible for religious affairs has been charged with corruption after allegedly soliciting bribes from Muslims who want to perform the hajj, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Security forces in the southern Khatlon Province told RFE/RL on October 10 that Bobokhon Sharbatov, head of the provincial Office for Religious Affairs, has been detained and charged with corruption.

They said the number of would-be pilgrims to Mecca and Medina from Tajikistan is far larger than the allocated quota, and Sharbatov solicited bribes for including pilgrims on the list.

Saudi officials allocated Tajikistan 5,500 places for this year's hajj, which ends with Eid al-Adha on November 6. That quota includes some 1,500 pilgrims from Khatlon.

In 2010, the price to go on the hajj was $3,191, but it has risen this year to $3,348. The State Committee for Religious Affairs says the increase is the result of a weaker dollar and higher fuel prices.

The first group of Tajik pilgrims will leave for Saudi Arabia on October 11. Tajik authorities this year have introduced special clothing marked with the national flag for Tajik hajjis.