Tajik taxis ban hugs and kisses

Tajik taxis ban public shows of affection, October 2019 Image copyright Radioi Ozodi/YouTube
Image caption Embraces join the banned list

Some taxi drivers in the Tajik capital Dushanbe have had enough of passengers kissing on the back seat, and have put up signs banning such displays of public affection.

The usual signs discouraging smoking, drinking and listening to loud music have been joined by images of couples embracing, according to Radio Liberty's Ozodi Tajik service.

The report was quickly picked up by news portals in Tajikistan, and has divided public opinion for and against the drivers' initiative.

Ozodi says only about 10% of Dushanbe cabbies have banned kissing, but sees it as an "increasingly common trend" as traditional Muslim rules of decorum clash with a modern urban environment.

It recalls that in 2012 the then - rector of the Arts Institute, Asliddin Nizomov, had proposed setting up a "morality police" to stop people "swearing and dressing inappropriately in public places".

'Put it on the meter'

Some locals deplore the move, especially if passengers are married, and worry that it poses a threat to personal freedom.

Shahlo Fayziyeva told Ozodi she saw "nothing wrong with a couple holding hands in a taxi" as "decent people know how to behave in public". Siyovush Jurayev said taxi drivers should "just get on with their job" as public shows of affection are perfectly legal.

But cabbies complain that some passengers go much further, and offer them money to turn a blind eye. Driver Bakhtiyor told Ozodi some of his fares countered his objections by telling him curtly to "put it on the meter, like I'm their company car".

Another called Eraj hasn't installed the sign, but expects passengers to show some respect as a matter of course.

"This isn't Europe. That sort of behaviour doesn't suit our people " he told the Asia-Plus news site.

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Many Tajiks agree that drivers should be able to set standards, as the taxi is their place of work.

"Of our 100 drivers, only two or three have put up these signs, and our company has no plans to make it policy," Sodiqjon Zarifi, the owner of the Saboh Taxi firm in Dushanbe, told Asia-Plus.

"But our society does not accept kissing in public places, and some of drivers are upset by it," he added.

Ilhom Obidov of the Tajik Consumer Union also said taxis are only obliged to ferry their passengers to their destination, and "can set any restrictions as long as they do not contradict the law".

Ultimately, as lawyer Shokirjon Khakimov told Asia-Plus, passengers who feel their right to public intimacy has been violated can always complain to the police.

Image copyright Radioi Ozodi/YouTube
Image caption Despite the sign, hats are still allowed

Reporting by Murat Babadjanov and Martin Morgan

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