MOSCOW, January 11 (RIA Novosti) – Taking care of facial hair became a murky affair in Tajikistan after local authorities, known for their fight against long beards, also urged local barbers to stop giving their clients a clean shave.
The measure should help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the nation, Tajik Health Minister Nusratullo Salimov said at a press conference in Dushanbe on Thursday, CA-News.org regional news website reported.
The number of HIV-positive people in Tajikistan grew 17 percent to 4,500 over 2012, according to official statistics, which gave no separate figures for the number of cases where the infection was transmitted through barber razors.
UNAIDS estimated the real number of HIV-positive Tajikistan residents at 11,000 in 2011, the latest year for which statistics are available. The country’s government won some praise in its anti-HIV efforts, but prevention and statistics are both hampered by negative public attitude to the disease and a drug epidemic blamed on an inflow of Afghan heroin.
Meanwhile, Tajik authorities have been active in combatting male beards, seen as an attribute of adherents of radical Islam, who fought on the losing side in the civil war that ravaged the country in the 1990s.
Pro-governmental religious authorities were reported last November to impose restrictions on maximum beard length (no longer than a bearer’s fist), though they denied the reports. Restrictions were also imposed in 2009 on teachers’ beards.
Tajik state officials are also required by the government to shave, and local police were reported in 2011 to crack down on bearded men during raids against “suspicious men.”