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Divorce Indignity: Uzbek Mayor Vows To Name And Shame Troubled Couples

Tashkent Mayor Rakhmonbek Usmanov (file photo)
Tashkent Mayor Rakhmonbek Usmanov (file photo)

The mayor of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, has pledged to publicize the names of those who apply for divorces in an attempt to keep married couples together.

Appalled at the failure of so many marriages, Rakhmonbek Usmanov says he will begin broadcasting on TV and publishing in a major newspaper the names of the unhappy husbands and wives.

Speaking at an official meeting on October 17, Usmanov cited a state report on divorce rates in the country’s 14 regions for the first nine months of 2016 that showed Tashkent leading the way with a 32 percent failure rate.

The next highest divorce rate -- in Uzbekistan’s eastern Jizzakh region -- was only 14 percent. Most regions had a rate of less than 10 percent.

Usmanov said the names will be broadcast at 11 p.m. every 15 days on the Tashkent Telekanali program and published in the Tashkent Oqshomi (Evening Tashkent) newspaper.

A number of influential figures -- including chief Tashkent imam Anvar Tursunov, Deputy Prime Minister for Women’s Affairs Elmira Bositkhonova, Tashkent Prosecutor-General Batyr Kudrathadzhaev, and police chief Bahodir Kurbanov -- attended the Tashkent meeting, which was dedicated to social affairs.

Usmanov, who was appointed mayor of Tashkent by then-President Islam Karimov in 2012, said he thinks the threat of being named publicly will curb the urge to divorce.

But he warned that if there wasn’t a significant drop in the divorce rate, he would start putting pictures of the unhappy couples on TV.

Mothers-In-Law Vs. Wives

Usmanov, 56, also blamed the often antagonistic relationships between the wives and their mothers-in-law for the failed unions, saying those two are the single greatest cause of divorces in Uzbekistan.

Wives in Uzbek society are frequently seen as beholden to their mothers-in-law and obligated by custom to clean for them and perform many other duties. Those relationships often become testy and lead to many disputes.

Usmanov's name-and-shame effort is not the first time the mayor has caused controversy in Tashkent.

"I used to be Rakhmonbek (merciful) but now I am Shaytanbek (Satan-like)."
"I used to be Rakhmonbek (merciful) but now I am Shaytanbek (Satan-like)."

In late March, he declared that streetcars in the city of 2 million were "ineffective" and rails that carried the trams would be "gradually dismantled." The decision came not long after the city had purchased 20 new streetcar engines and wagons from a Czech firm to the tune of some $20 million.

Usmanov recently angered Tashkent denizens by declaring many of the city’s splendorous trees -- most of which were planted during the Soviet era -- diseased and a hazard to residents, and he said they would need to be chopped down.

Critics saw that as an excuse to remove the trees and make room to expand the streets in the absence of the streetcars. Others were angered that where trees were replanted, they were only small fir trees that are not well-suited to the climate in Tashkent, with its dry summers and mild, moist winters.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service and Alisher Siddique