TASHKENT -- Uzbek security officials have come under fire after allegedly detaining dozens of males at a local market in Tashkent and shaving their beards before releasing them.
A vendor at the Malika market in the Uzbek capital, who asked not to be named, told RFE/RL that he was among dozens of men detained by police on August 23 and brought to a police station, where they were forced to shave their beards off.
Another man, Jamoliddin Muhammadjon, wrote on Facebook that he was also among the men who were detained at the market and forced to shave at a police station.
Since coming to power in 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoev has taken modest steps to relax restrictions on religious freedom in the predominantly Muslim country. But religion in Uzbekistan remains strictly regulated by authorities.
The government reportedly continues to bar the wearing of the Islamic hijab in schools and offices. A 1998 law prohibits the wearing of religious clothing in public by anyone except religious figures.
There have also been frequent reports of police singling out men with long beards, a campaign presented by officials as an effort to combat radical Islam in Central Asia's most populous nation of 30 million with deep Islamic roots and traditions.
Many Internet users were critical of the latest police action and have demanded explanations from the city police department, which refused to comment when contacted by RFE/RL.
Last week, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the western city of Ferghana that a bearded person with investment proposals was not allowed to see the city mayor.