TAJIKISTAN – As the famous doll maker Barbie prepares to release the first batches of its first-ever hijabi doll, Tajik officials have warned against dolls with Islamic attire as part of its crackdown on displays of “conservative” Islam.
“We have been told to place orders with our Chinese partners for dolls wearing traditional Tajik costumes,” Saodat Doniyorova, who imports toys wholesale from neighboring China, told RFE/RL‘s Tajik Service.
Authorities in predominantly Muslim Tajikistan have long banned the Islamic hijab in schools and workplaces, calling it “alien” to local culture.
More recently, they have tightened controls on Islamic institutions and public displays of faith, including men’s beards, baby names, and how women tie their scarves.
As part of its crackdown on Islamic features, Tojik-Standart, a state agency regulating consumer goods and services, have intensified their raids in late November.
Moreover, they pushed the distribution of dolls in Tajik national dress in shops and bazaars.
“The officials instructed us not to import the Barbie dolls wearing the hijab,” Doniyorova said.
An official at Tojik-Standart confirmed that the state agency has “advised” the retailers not to import dolls in head scarves and instead place orders with manufacturers for dolls in traditional Tajik costumes.
“The promotion of traditional clothes is the policy of our government,” the official told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity.
“Toys are meant to play a role in children’s moral development,” the source said. “We prefer to import dolls with traditional clothes to promote our own culture.”
The official said “there was not yet a final decision” on a possible official ban on the Barbie in the hijab, “as no one has yet approached us to discuss their import.”