Uzbekistan: TikTok parody sparks indignation of prim officials
The teen creators of the video have got the backing of at least one senior official though.
A musical TikTok parody video posted by a group of teenagers in Uzbekistan has incurred the wrath of officials who have accused the youngsters of acting in violation of traditional values and forced their parents to issue an apology.
In the offending 26-second clip, which appears to have been shot in an empty classroom, four high-schoolers from a state school can be seen singing and dancing to a song called “For Money Yes” while throwing around fake dollar notes.
The original track, sung by a 22-year-old Russian rapper and TikTok star going by the name Instasamka (real name Daria Zoteyeva), is an unabashed celebration of consumer culture and hedonism and has gone viral since its release.
But Uzbek education officials take the view that Instasamka is no example to Uzbek youths. Following the spread of the Uzbek copycat video, they summoned the parents of the teenagers and administered a “prophylactic chat” – a Soviet-era euphemism used by bureaucrats to describe a talk with someone perceived as having crossed a line.
“At this encounter, it was once more explained that the actions of these students go against the rules of good conduct and are not in keeping with our national traditions,” the Tashkent city department of public education said in a statement.
TikTok has long been viewed as a pernicious influence by officials. Over the last couple of years, the government has slapped bans on the Chinese-owned social media app, only to then occasionally lift the block.
The official explanation for the censorship is that TikTok has failed to comply with personal data protection regulations, although the repeated complaints of local politicians about how the app is “dangerous to children” and “harmful to national values” suggests otherwise.
There is no more prominent critic of TikTok in Uzbekistan than President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. In July 2021, he slammed several young TikTokers for failing to show proper respect for statues of the 15th-century poet Alisher Navoi, widely considered to be the father of Uzbek letters, and Amir Temur, or Tamerlane, as the Timurid conqueror is better known in the West.
“There should be no room in our society for such negative displays, which are entirely inappropriate for the young people of our nation and a disgrace to all of us,” he said at the time.
TikTok was blocked the day after he made those remarks.
Groveling apologies have already been elicited for this latest episode. The Tashkent education board said the mother of one teen involved has appealed to the school’s administration for clemency and said that the footage was not posted to TikTok with any particular intent.
Social media users, meanwhile, have reacted contemptuously to the prim officials. A sarcastic comment underneath the Facebook post about the incident issued by the Tashkent department of education read: “It seem we have no other problems with the educational system. We should abolish this department. You are parasites feeding off the taxpayer.”
The teens even got some institutional support, from the deputy speaker of parliament no less.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I didn’t see anything immoral in what these children did,” Odiljon Tojiyev wrote on Twitter, which was itself banned in Uzbekistan until recently. “Maybe it would be better if officials just got down from their high horses and actually listened to the students?! After all, there are limits to unwritten rules.”
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