In authorities’ ongoing efforts to restrict private expressions of religious devotion in Tajikistan, the focus is turning toward small, unregulated places of prayer.
After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 paved the way for the revival of Islam, hundreds of prayer rooms mushroomed in towns and cities across Tajikistan so that believers could perform their daily rites. In time, funerals and weddings also took place at these locations. The rooms were particularly popular with the elderly, who gathered not just to pray, but also to meet with friends over cups of tea.
Over the past year, authorities have been systematically demolishing prayer rooms, or handing them over to local entrepreneurs for conversion into shops or hairdressing salons. The decline of what are known in Tajik as Joi Jamiyati — literally “public places” — has been assured by a combination of secular and religious edicts.
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