Uzbekistan Clamps Down on Lavish Parties

The city authorities in the Uzbek capital Tashkent are clamping down on lavish wedding parties and funerals, much to the annoyance of local residents. 

An official meeting in early November was told that restaurant and cafe owners in the capital had been fined a total of 111 million soms, the equivalent of 40,000 US dollars, for hosting over-lavish events, in violation of rules issued in April.

The mayor's office warned owners that more fines would be forthcoming, and premises closed down, if they continued to break the rules.

The city authorities had early issued a list of restaurants and cafes licensed to hold weddings, funerals and other formal events, with maximum guest numbers limited to 200 and closing time at 10:30 in the evening. People planning to book one of these venues also have to inform the municipal authorities and the police, including the number of guests and the names and qualifications of any religious clerics presiding at the event.

Officials say the idea is to discourage people from spending huge amounts. Tradition dictates that such events are attended by large numbers of friends, acquaintances and extended family members, and similar restrictions have been introduced in neighbouring Tajikistan and southern Kyrgyzstan.

Anvar, a 27-year-old who got married recently, complained that his wedding was ruined by the restrictions.

"My wedding party started at 19:00 and we were only allowed to spend only three hours in the restaurant," he said. "And I wasn’t allowed to invite all relatives."

A Tashkent restaurant owner said he was losing money because guest numbers had fallen and they spent less time on his premises. In addition, he had to submit weekly reports to the authorities on his compliance with the rules.

"The state wants to regulate every area of life, and now it’s got to leisure,” he said.

An official in the city government said the authorities were more worried about funerals than wedding celebrations, and watched them carefully for signs of Islamic radicalism.

"We’re under instructions to study what kind of ceremonies are held, whether they comply with our traditions, and whether anyone is setting out the precepts of radical groups,” he said.

This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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