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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 16:26 GMT
Young Turkmen face beard ban
By Monica Whitlock
BBC Central Asia correspondent

President Saparmurat Niyazov
Niyazov's laws are increasingly aimed at individualism
Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov has passed a decree forbidding young men in the country to wear long hair or beards.

The president said the Education Ministry should be in charge of checking people's hair as the issue was most pressing among the young.

Mr Niyazov's rule in the central Asian state has always been authoritarian.

But his latest decree takes to a new level the degree of state intervention in people's private lives.

President Niyazov appeared on television saying that men can no longer grow their hair and that beards are not allowed, at least among the young.

He gave no reason - but that is not unusual in Turkmenistan.

In this part of the world, rulings on hair are generally connected to Islam in some way, but it seems likely that Mr Niyazov's decree is more broadly directed against individualism of any kind.


The goatee beard is currently in vogue in the capital, Ashgabat, and these will probably be the first to be shaved off.

Mr Niyazov's laws are becoming more and more personal.

Map of Turkmenistan
It is forbidden now to listen to car radios or to smoke in the street; opera and ballet performances have been banned on the grounds that they are unnecessary.

The rules invite comparison between Turkmenistan and Albania in the 1970s under Enver Hoxha, who also made great lists of things illegal, including beards.

President Niyazov has moreover just brought in a ruling that public places and government ministries should have video monitors for, he said, the protection of the people.

Turkmenistan is ever more cut off from the outside world, and there are few checks and balances against Mr Niyazov's style of government.

On Sunday he is to fire 15,000 nurses and other health workers and replace them with army conscripts.

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