The other day when chatting with a fellow expat in Tajikistan I observed that their seemed to be more woman wearing hijabs this spring. My friend agreed and noted a marked increase in young school aged girls. Last week I visited a primary school in Khujand and was suprised (not shocked, revolted, or dismayed, only suprised) to see girls as young as ten wearing them openly and freely in spite of the ban on wearing the hijab in public institutions.
For a second opinion I polled several coworkers, neighbors, and friends who confirmed our intuition and said for the past 4-6 years there has been a steady increase in women wearing the hijab and men sporting beards. To my follow up question of, “What happened circa 2005 to spur this?” I got varried answers ranging from an increase in foreign and foreign-inspired missonary activity to a the rather vague and predictable “it’s a product of a new generation of young people trying to to find a new, non-Soviet bases for their identity”. Whatever the reason there does appear to be a trend. On Tuesday Radio Free Europe had this piece on the increase in women wearing not only the hijab but the niqab:
In the past year, the number of Tajik women wearing the niqab has grown considerably — with the trend most evident among women in their late teens or early 20s.
The niqab’s rising popularity comes despite a partial ban imposed in 2007 on the comparatively more revealing hijab, branded as an unnecessary foreign import. The wearing of that head scarf, popular among many Tajik Muslim women, is not allowed in state institutions, some public places, and shops.