Tajik pop star fined over birthday law breach

Firusa Khafizova in court Image copyright TV channel Tojikiston
Image caption Authorities insist the law was introduced in the interests of citizens themselves

A popular Tajik pop star has been fined for breaching her country's law on celebrations after enjoying her birthday in the company of friends and fellow singers, local media report.

Firusa Khafizova was fined 5,000 somoni (530 US dollars) by a court in the capital Dushanbe after she posted videos of her party on her Instagram account, featuring her and her guests performing on stage.

Article 8 of Tajikistan's regulations on traditions, celebrations and customs bans birthday celebrations outside the family home.

'Strange law'

The prosecutor in her case defended the restrictions, saying they are in the best interest of citizens, so they can spend their money on family needs rather than on unnecessarily lavish celebrations.

But many Tajiks have taken to social media to vent their displeasure at the "strange law", pointing out it is personal business in which the state shouldn't interfere.

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"Who needs senseless laws?" exclaimed one person on Facebook. "This is a so-called democratic country... "

Another wrote sarcastically: "Do you want celebrations? You should invite corruption committee workers, tax officers and prosecutors as well so as not to upset them. Then you will have no problem."

What else is banned under the law?

Image copyright TV channel Tojikiston
Image caption Many insisted on social media that individuals should be able to celebrate as they wish

Tajikistan's law on the observation of national traditions was first introduced in 2007 and expanded in 2017 to include rules for conducting weddings, funerals and celebrations of children being born.

The measures impose strict limits on the number of guests and dishes, and the duration of festivities, allowed. They also ban the slaughtering of livestock for funeral ceremonies.

The idea behind the law was to prevent excessive spending on family occasions and to ease the debt many incurred to pay for such events.

Local media reports observe that the rules are viewed with amusement in the west but that human rights activists in Tajikistan see them as an attempt by the authorities to intervene in citizens' private lives, in violation of their rights and freedoms.

Khafizova is not the only Tajik citizen to be stung by the law. Back in 2015, a Tajik man made headlines outside his country for being the first person to fall foul of the law after sharing photos on Facebook of his visit to a cafe with a birthday cake.

Tajikistan's supreme court says that 648 people were brought to account in 2018 and that the fines collected came to 3m somoni (325,000 US dollars).

Reporting by Azim Rakhimov and Krassi Twigg

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