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Tajikistan: forced hijab poses a difficult choice for woman

In Tajikistan, some of the women complain that their own family members force them to wear a hijab. Lawyers say that for these actions are prohibited by law, but women fear that it can disrupt  the relationship within the family.

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Mehrinisso Saidova, a resident of Fayzabad district, complains that her husband forcibly coerces her to put on a hijab, which creates many problems for her in daily life.

– Before the wedding, I put on a scarf (the traditional way for Tajikistan – approx. Ed) and my husband never said anything about the hijab. However, after the wedding, my husband did not even allow me to go out into the courtyard of the house without a hijab. I started working at school, but it is not allowed there to wear a hijab, ”Saidova said.

Therefore, according to Saidova, she has to leave the house in the hijab and tie a scarf before entering the school. Returning home, she already wore a hijab. The school administration criticized Saidova several times for wearing the hijab.

– The school principal one saw me one day in such clothes (in a hijab – approx. Ed.) and said  that he would fire me if this continues: “we do not need such an employee.” Every day I have such problems. What to do? There is no way out. The husband threatens to divorce with me if I don’t wear the hijab, – Saidova asks.

Why do women put up with violence?

 In Tajikistan, a country with a low standard of living, for women, a divorce often becomes a big problem. Most women are forced to bear violent behaviour, because after a divorce they have to raise and and take care of their children by themselves.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova,a well-known Tajik human rights activist. Photo CABAR.asia
Oinikhol Bobonazarova,a well-known Tajik human rights activist. Photo CABAR.asia

Oinikhol Bobonazarova, a well-known Tajik human rights activist and head of the non-governmental organization “Perspective +”, believes that everything that happens by force is violence.

– If the husband forces the woman to wear hijab, it is also violence. Of course, a woman can complain to government agencies, but the consequences can destroy the family. A man will go and marry again, but the modern society of Tajikistan cannot provide a woman with work so that she can live independently in the future, ”said Bobonazarova.

There are many women who are pushed to wear hijabs and sometimes it even leads to the breakup of the family.

Nargis Anvarova, a 30-year-old resident of Varzob district, divorced after a long quarrel with her husband, who forced her to wear a hijab.

– I worked at a university and my husband also had a higher education. He was very jealous and forced me to wear a hijab. At first I wore it, but I took off my headscarf near the university so that there would be no criticism from school administation. When I returned to the village, I put on the hijab again. This was the reason that we quickly parted, ”Anvarova added.

Saida Kholova, a resident of Dushanbe, was free to choose clothes before marriage. However, in her husband’s house, she was confined in that particular freedom.

– From the very beginning I knew that my husband’s family was religious, but I didn’t think how much.

Women in my husband’s family all wore a hijab and I was forced to wear it. At first, I objected. I did not want to wear it. We almost divorced, but I did not want to destroy my family. And for almost ten years now, I have been wearing a hijab, ”said Kholova.

What does Islam say about hijabs?

Julia Denisenko, religious scholar. Photo CABAR.asia
Julia Denisenko, religious scholar. Photo CABAR.asia

According to the requirements of Islam, every girl who reaches puberty must wear Sharia-compliant clothing and a hijab must be worn, says religious scholar Julia Denisenko.

At the same time, Denisenko notes that according to the Constitution everyone has civil rights that ensure freedom of conscience. And according to her, these rights also apply to women who are forced to wear a hijab.

In Tajikistan, especially in remote regions, there are more and more cases when parents force teenage girls to wear a hijab. In conversations with children, many express dissatisfaction and say that even from the islamic point of view it is wrong to force girls who have not reached puberty to wear a hijab.

– Why do we isolate our children from society and not allow them to study sciences? Everything should have logic and limits. Thus, my position, as well as the position of other religious scholars, is that girls under 12 do not have to wear headscarves and hijabs, ”Denisenko noted.
Faridun Hodizoda. Photo CABAR.asia
Faridun Hodizoda. Photo CABAR.asia

Tajik religious scholar Faridun Hodizoda says that according to Islam it is wrong to force women to wear a hijab. According to him, those who force women to do this are dogmatists (“zoirparast”, Taj. – in this case, a person for whom the external side of faith is more important than the essential – ed.).

   – Now most women are forced to wear hijab and this is wrong. Because everyone has the right to their own choice. However, in past times, no one thought it was possible to wear other clothes. Now life has completely changed, times have changed. Islam also says that faith should be in the heart, not in clothes, and the one who forces is a dogmatist, ”said Hodizoda.

Women are between a rock and a hard place

 Tajik authorities are increasingly restricting the rights of women who wear hijabs. In particular, media reported that a bill was being prepared prohibiting women in hijabs from entering the buildings of public institutions and private enterprises.

According to media reports, a working group established under the National Center for Legislation of Tajikistan this bill is assigned to design the bill.

Under these conditions, women wearing the hijab are subjected to double pressure – from husbands and relatives who demand to wear it, and from state bodies that demand to refuse it.

And the woman has a choice to obey her husband and save the family or give in to pressure from officials which put family relationship under huge risk.

This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia».

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