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Cousin Marriages Blamed for Congenital Problems

Doctors in Tajikistan say the increase in marriage between blood relatives is to blame for many health problems in newborn babies.
Tajikistan’s institute of gynaecology and pediatrics says that a minimum of 27 per cent of the birth defects it recorded last year were attributable to consanguinal marriage.

Marriage between first cousins is steadily rising in Tajikistan, and is believed to account for nearly one in five of all new marriages. The idea is to ensure that property is retained within the extended family when it comes to inheritance.

Reporter Rahmatullo Odinaev interviewed parents whose children were born with problems and spoke to doctors who said congenital problems were more common when parents share a chromosome. If both parents share a common ancestor, any proclivity to a particular health problem can be doubled in their children.

Some doctors believe that the law needs to be changed to bar marriage between first cousins. However, there are Muslim clerics who say cousin marriage is permissible, and the fate of the children lies beyond man’s control.

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Tajik Kids in Cracker Craze

Well ahead of the New Year festivities, young people are arming themselves with Chinese crackers and other fireworks and letting them off at random.

Doctors say 30 children a year are hospitalised with burns, and many more people with heart conditions are admitted after the sudden shock of a firework going off nearby.

Despite a ban on importing fireworks, they are freely available in markets and shops. Most come in from China, smuggled among other lorry freight.

Dushanbe police spokesman Nusratullo Saidov says police in the city are seizing between 3,000 and 4,000 fireworks a day. Anyone found trading in them in bulk faces a fine and a possible two-year sentence. Young children have taken to buying crackers at the market and selling them on to their peers.

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Robbery on the Railways

Travelling on Tajikistan’s railway can be a costly business, as conductors demand money at every turn.

Reporter Kamari Ahrorzoda interviewed rail travellers who said conductors demand extra money for everything for bedding, which should be provided for a nominal fee, to arranging things so that border guards do not check people’s luggage. Refusing to pay up for the latter service could have dire consequences – one man recalls being warned that something illegal was likely to turn up in his suitcase during a search, the implication being that it would be planted there.

Lawyer Akmal Valiev says extortion by train conductors is clearly a criminal offence.

In northern Tajikistan, two conductors were prosecuted for illegally soliciting bribes last year, but an official says no cases have been found this year. Yet migrant workers travelling back to northern Tajikistan by rail report continuing harassment.

Their journey home is marred by bullying officials from the start. When they get on the train at Saratov, they are immediately shaken down by Russian police.

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