Tajik actors get 'beard permits'
Two stage actors in Tajikistan have been granted temporary permits enabling them to sport facial hair in public.
The wearing of beards is unofficially banned in Tajikistan as part of a crackdown against religious extremism in the largely Muslim country, and the bearded actors were detained by police in the northern town of Konibodom earlier this week.
Khushnud Dado and Farrukh Vaitov were in town to perform a play called "The Death of the Usurer" by famous Tajik writer Sadriddin Ayni, news website Sugdnews says.
After the pair explained their motives, police granted them a document permitting them to go out in public wearing facial hair.
"We can freely walk around the town without fear of wearing a beard," Akbor news website quoted Mr Vaitov as saying.
Shaving beards is part of a government campaign targeting cultural practices deemed "alien and inconsistent with Tajik culture".
It has resulted in the arrest of hundreds of thousands of men, and the forcible shaving of nearly 13,000 men in one Tajik region alone.
The authorities initially blamed the campaign against beards on local police, but now they acknowledge that the drive is aimed at curbing religious extremism amid fears it could spread from neighbouring Afghanistan.
Reporting by Alistair Coleman
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