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'Happy And Witty' Gets Mean And Nasty: Fan Melee Scuppers Tajik Youth Talent Show

A video recording by a witness shows a group of mostly young men throwing punches at each other, and grabbing and pulling each other’s jackets. 

It was drawn up as an entertaining display of talent pitting school teams against each other in comedy, music, and dance.

But the Happy And Witty show was abruptly halted and suspended indefinitely after a brawl erupted in the audience at the Panjakent city theater in the northern Tajik province of Sughd.

A 30-second video recording by a witness, obtained by RFE/RL, shows a group of mostly young men throwing punches at each other, and grabbing and pulling each other’s jackets.

The fracas appears to be taking place near the front row as the rest of the audience sits or tries to take their seats in the middle and back rows.

A male voice can be heard pleading with the belligerents via a loudspeaker: "Take your seats, please! Everyone, take your own designated seats, please!"

Tajik Talent Show Ends In Mass Brawl
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Panjakent city police confirmed to RFE/RL on December 21 that the brawl occurred two days earlier during the Happy And Witty show, subsequently forcing the organizers to cancel the event.

The rumpus started with an argument over seating, according to Panjakent police official Mehrojiddin Kholziyoev.

Police have since arrested 10 people who face hooliganism charges, Kholziyoev said.

Panjakent education officials say no one was seriously injured in the fighting, which they insist did not involve any students.

"It was a brawl among the fans only," said Nekruz Kenjaev, the head of the youth- and sports-affairs department at the Panjakent city government.

"It ended quite quickly and nobody was harmed," Kenjaev said. He didn’t say whether authorities plan to reschedule the event, which was quickly canceled.

The Happy And Witty contests have taken place across Tajikistan since 2016, with teams representing schools and universities.

Local winners move on to regional and national events that are aired on state TV.

The contests in the rest of the Sughd Province continue, and the winner will be announced at the end of the year.

Tajik authorities say the shows are aimed at "promoting healthy lifestyle and preventing unwanted trends among the young, and encouraging talented youth."

Written by Farangis Najibullah with reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent Mumin Ahmadi
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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    Mumin Ahmadi

    Mumin Ahmadi has been a correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service since 2008. He graduated from Kulob State University and has worked with Anvori Donish, Millat, Khatlon-Press, and the Center for Journalistic Research of Tajikistan. He was also the editor in chief of Pajwok.