Tajikistan legislators passed a law that effectively bans hijabs, joining a long list of countries that limit or ban Islamic dress.
The new law requires citizens to “stick to traditional and national clothes,” which means either uncovered hair or a scarf tied behind the head, along with long dresses for women, according to Radio Free Europe. The law does not specifically outlaw the hijab, or variations of Islamic veils for women, but enforces a traditional Tajik dress code that a hijab would violate.
“It’s really dangerous,” Tajik Minister of Culture Shamsiddin Orumbekzoda told RFE. “Everyone looks at them with concern, like they could be hiding something under their hijab.”
The law may be the final nail on the coffin for hijabs in Tajikistan, as it joins restrictions already in place against the Islamic dress. Women wearing hijabs are forbidden from entering government offices. Tajik authorities removed hijabs from 1,700 women, shaved the beards of 13,000 men, shut down 162 stores that sold hijabs, and arrested 89 “hijab wearing prostitutes” in January 2016, according to the Daily Mail.
Tajik police cracked down on hijabs yet again in August 2017, when they approached 8,000 women and demanded that they either wear their head scarves in the traditional Tajik fashion or remove them, according to the Independent.
While Tajik authorities and some citizens support the new law for reasons of security and preserving cultural identity, citizens are divided over the law’s implications for personal liberties.
“I have to decide for myself what to wear. No one has the right to tell me ‘you have to wear this,'” human rights activist Oinikhol Bobonazarova told RFE.
The law does not define any penalties for breaking the mandate to wear traditional Tajik clothing, though legislators said they could add penalties at a later date.
Tajikistan joins a long list of countries that have banned face and head concealing Islamic dress to varying degrees. Belgium, France, and the Netherlands have bans on full-face Islamic veils, and Bulgaria, Austria, Germany, Latvia, and Kosovo also banned face-concealing Islamic veils. Four African countries — Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, and Gabon — also banned face-concealing Islamic headwear.
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