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Not Austere Enough: Tajik Authorities Seize Wedding Feast

Despite relatively low living standards and widespread unemployment, Tajiks sometimes throw extravagant wedding parties they can barely afford.

Final preparations were in full swing at Zaidullo Khudoyorov's home in southern Tajikistan as the family got ready to celebrate the marriage of his eldest daughter.

Just hours before the party, however, a group of local officials raided the house and confiscated most of the food the family had prepared for the banquet.

The officials deemed the quantities of food "wasteful" and in violation of a newly amended Tajik law that regulates and limits how much families spend on weddings, funerals, and all other private functions.

"We managed to prevent a lawbreaking in the village," said Kholmurod Ibrohimov, an official who took part in the August 26 raid, in Dahana, on the outskirts of the city of Kulob.

"During the raid, we established that the family prepared a wasteful amount of food, such as special flatbreads and halva for the banquet at the bridegroom's house," Ibrohimov said on September 18, after reports of the seizure emerged. "We seized the food and handed it over to the Kulob psychiatric hospital."

Ibrohimov also pointed out that the cost of the food was incompatible with the "impoverished" family's income.

The law -- locally known as "tanzim" or the "regulation" -- was initially adopted in 2007, after longtime President Emomali Rahmon said the cost of the lavish wedding and funeral traditions was putting a financial strain on families in the impoverished Central Asian country.

Khudoyorov, an unemployed father of seven children, depends on irregular income of odd jobs and the vegetables grown in his courtyard.

Khudoyorov, 44, says he had told his wife and other female relatives not to prepare the food that, according to local custom, the family of the bride sends to the bridegroom's house ahead of the party.

Khudoyorov is relieved that he escaped a potentially hefty fine for violating the law on the regulation of private functions.

The law now stipulates up to a $4,000 fine for the offenders and some $5,700 for repeat offenders. In a country where teachers and other public sector workers make around $150 a month, the government says the high penalties are designed to discourage people from risking violating the rules.

In late August, Tajikistan's parliament approved the amendments to expand the law, introducing new limits and bans. According to the new changes, government officials may be removed from their post if they or their immediate family members violate the law to throw a lavish party.

The amendments also ban large feasts for certain traditional gatherings, such as celebrating the naming of a newborn, a baby's first haircut, or infant boys' circumcisions.

Instead, the families are encouraged to open bank accounts for their children and spend the money on their education and well-being.

The amendments also strictly limit traditional feasts in funerals and outlaw numerous death anniversaries -- such as the seventh-day or six-month anniversaries -- to relieve the host families of financial burden.

Despite relatively low living standards and widespread unemployment, Tajiks sometimes throw extravagant wedding parties they can barely afford. Families often save up for years and men work as migrant laborers to collect money for weddings.

In August, Rahmon ordered local officials to explain the "regulation" law to people and distribute copies of the law to every household to root out long-standing traditions.

Back in Dahana, his daughter newly married, Khudoyorov said his experience "will set an example to all families in the neighborhood."

Written by Farangis Najibullah with reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent Mahmudjon Rahmatzoda