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Halloween in Tajikistan: Devil Worship or Innocent Fun?

If Halloween is not at the very bottom on the long list of celebrations observed in Tajikistan, it is certainly very close to the bottom. Most people in the country have probably never heard of the festival. However, as Global Voices reported last year, even rare Halloween fun raises eyebrows in the Tajik society.

This year the “alien” holiday continues to divide people in the country. On October 26, Tajik police detained [ru] several young men after a Halloween party at a night club in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. It is not clear what prompted police officers to detain the men wearing Halloween masks. Yet, as one of these men later wrote on Facebook, police officers scolded them for celebrating an “alien holiday” in a Muslim society.

At this Halloween party at a night club in Dushanbe most people did not even wear costumes. Image by ASIA-Plus, used with permission.

Halloween party at a night club in Dushanbe. Image by ASIA-Plus, used with permission.

The incident polarized the small Tajikistan community on Twitter. Tomiris posted a link to a news report about the incident, asking [ru]:

Do we live in an Islamic republic or what? Has our police been transformed into the morality police? http://t.co/dtDCsV2pka

Bachai Sako responded [ru]:

@tomiristj No, [we do not live] in an Islamic republic. However, we should clearly see a line separating our culture from the strange culture. Otherwise we can lose our culture.

Mardikor weighed in, asking [tj]:

@BachaiSako @tomiristj [Our country] has become independent, but we still celebrate alien holidays and turn our backs on national festivals. What is the reason?

He adds [tj]:

@BachaiSako @tomiristj This is the devil worshipers’ holiday. We should explain to children what the consequences of celebrating it are.

Young woman wearing a Halloween costume at a party in Dushanbe. Image by ASIA-Plus, used with permission.

Young woman wearing a Halloween costume at a party in Dushanbe. Image by ASIA-Plus, used with permission.

Tomiris then responded [ru]:

@mardikor @BachaiSako What “devil worship”? What are you talking about? Young people are having fun. Normal young people, not some kind of satanists. Why should this be banned?

@mardikor @BachaiSako For these young people, Halloween is not even a holiday, but rather an opportunity to get together and have a good time.

She has failed to convince, however:

@tomiristj @mardikor Still, there are other opportunities to get together and have fun. Other opportunities should be used.

A similar discussion has taken place in the comments section on news.tj, under a report about the incident.

Rustam wrote [ru]:

А на самом деле зачем они празднуют этот праздник? У нас свои хорошие и интересные праздники есть без всяких привидений и монстров. Меньше надо западные кино смотреть.

Really, why do [these young people] celebrate the holiday? We have good and interesting holidays of our own, without ghosts and monsters involved. They should watch Western movies less.

Simka added [ru]:

…бестолковая молодежь…

…stupid youths…

But Aprel disagreed [ru]:

пусть молодежь отдыхает ,они же просто веселиться и при чем тут вера…почему у нас принята всегда напоминать о вере , что на новый год ,что на другие мало мальские праздники .у каждого есть родня пускай они и беспокоятся о религиозном составляющий свох чадов..

let the young people have fun. they are just having fun. what does their faith have to do with it? why are we always reminded about the faith, for example when we celebrate the new year's eve or other holidays? all people have families, let their families care about the religious upbringing of their children.

Yet some readers thought that the real problem that the incident highlighted was the unprofessional police. Ali wrote [ru]:

уважаемые товарищи, наша милиция является выходцы из сельской местности. Поэтому для это чужда, вот они и ловять тех уто справляет западный праздник. Пршу не обижаться на них…

Dear friends, our police officers come from rural areas. Things like that are alien to them, this is why they detain those who celebrate this Western holiday. Please, take no offence….

A part of the former Soviet Union, Tajikistan became independent 22 years ago. Since then, Islam has come to play a much more important role in the everyday life of Tajikistani society, and there has been a greater emphasis on the “national” cultural heritage. Yet the continuing disputes about holidays, monuments, and national symbols demonstrate that there is still little agreement in society about what it means to be “Tajik” and what role religion has to play in the country.

Alexander Sodiqov has contributed to this report.

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