Tajikistan Shaves Beards, Removes Hijabs

KHATLON – Continuing its crackdown on religious freedoms, authorities in Tajikistan’s Khatlon region police have announced that the beards of 13,000 men were forcibly shaved and nearly 1800 women and girls were forced to remove Islamic hijab.

The shocking details, released in a press conference on January 19, were declared as part of authorities fight against conservative Muslims.

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According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Tajik Service, known as Ozodi, the head of the Khatlon police, Bahrom Sharifzoda, recounted his force’s progress in battling these “foreign” influences.

Some 12,818 men with the wrong facial hair were “brought to order,” said the chief, who was himself pictured as clean-shaven in local media.

Sahrifzoda announced that police uncovered and closed down 162 shops and stalls where hijabs were being sold as well as convicting 1,773 women and girls to shun the “alien headwear”.

Tajikistan is one of the five Central Asian countries of the ex-Soviet Union which won independence in 1991.

Muslims constitute nearly 90 percent of Tajikistan’s 7.2 million population, according to the CIA factbook.

But under the Soviet rule, any sign of religion such as hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, or performing prayers was punishable.

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

Tajik Muslim women have been facing repeated attacks on religious freedoms after the government imposed a ban on hijab in schools, frowned upon the outfit in the workplace, and banished it from passport photos.

Despite the official ban on the hijab in schools and government offices, the Islamic garment has become a permanent fixture in the predominantly Muslim country.