Tajikistan has already told its police to lose extra weight. Now it's ordering them to squeeze themselves into theater seats.
In the latest move aimed at improving the image and performance of the police force in the impoverished Central Asian country, the Tajik Interior Ministry has ordered police officers and other ministry employees to attend the theater at least once a month.
The directive was handed down last week by Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda, after he and other senior officials attended an apparently inspiring performance at the Abdulkasim Lahuti State Drama Theater in Dushanbe.
Ministry spokesman Umarjoni Emomali told RFE/RL on April 11 that attending plays will help police boost their spiritual and moral awareness, and unwind after a difficult working day.
"The decision has been made that police officers will attend the theater at least once a month, on different days," he said. "This applies to all Interior Ministry employees on the territory of the country."
Emomali said that Rahimzoda personally congratulated the artists on their performance of a play last week by writer and former Culture Minister Nur Tabarov.
The minister told them that, going forward, "We intend to attend the republic's theaters every month," Emomali added.
The initiative comes on the heels of another Interior Ministry directive aimed at combatting obesity among police and cleaning up their image.
Police officers were given a set amount of time to shed excess weight or risk being fired. The ministry recommended that they work out in their off hours in order to comply.
Tajikistan, a predominantly Muslim former Soviet republic, has been ruled by President Emomali Rahmon since 1992. Rights groups and opponents say he tolerates little dissent and suppresses his critics.
Written by Carl Schreck based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service