Uzbek wedding restrictions prompt backlash

Dancers at Uzbek wedding, SamarkandImage copyrightHermes Images/AGF/Getty ImagesImage caption Weddings often involve singers and dancers

Uzbekistan has brought in curbs on what it sees as excessive spending on weddings, but suggestions for more draconian measures have prompted public anger and a campaign by the country's leading singing stars.

The new law obliges wedding planners to notify the local authorities in advance, and cut back the length of the celebrations, as well as the number of guests, singers and rented cars, the Kun.uz news site reports. The new regulations, which also apply to birthdays and funerals, come into force in January 2020, and are the latest in a long campaign by the authorities against public pressure on families to host lavish festivities that push them into debt.

Only last year, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev criticised "shameless spending" on feasts, which can cost $20,000 in a country where monthly incomes rarely exceed $300, and urged families to use the money to help those in need. His recommendation to cap the number of guests and singers fell on deaf ears, prompting the government to enforce the curbs.

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There is considerable support for the move on social media, as reported by the BBC Uzbek Service, but this is coupled with scepticism about its effectiveness, as well as irritation at perceived official high-handedness.

This irritation has grown since Senator Maqsuda Borisova demanded an audit of people's incomes to see whether they are spending more than they earn.

"We need to find out where people get the money for these lavish weddings, if they don't earn much. It could be illegal," the leading pro-government legislator told state TV's Munosabat talk show - a suggestion that goes far beyond anything specified in the new legislation.

'Try your own pocket'

Her comments prompted anger on social media. "You want to know where the people's money has gone? Try your own pocket," read one comment on the Troll.uz site's Instagram page, while another feigned sympathy with the senator - "her surprise is reasonable, as politicians should have ensured that the people have no money left at all by now".

Ms Borisova is only the latest legislator to weigh in with draconian suggestions for dealing with wedding excesses.

Senator Iqbol Mirzo, a noted poet, wants offenders to "account for their disgraceful behaviour in the media, as fines don't work", while MP Alisher Hamroyev dubbed them "vulgar and brainless".

'Fees support families'

But more eye-catching than social-media sniping is the counter-offensive launched by Uzbekistan's wedding singers, who have come together to defend their reputation.

Stars like Ozoda Nursaidova have posted videos and graphics on Instagram to protest that their wedding fees let an army of musicians, drivers and bodyguards feed their families.

Singer Minusa Rizayeva told her 3.1 million followers that her fees support nearly 150 people a month, according to Radio Liberty's Uzbek Service. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the curb on celebrations, one social-media commentator spoke for many when he wondered what Mr Hamroyev's nuptial feast was like.

"Something tells me it wasn't a modest wedding," he posted on the UPL24 news site.

Image copyrightozodaofficial/instagramImage caption Munisa Rizayeva is one of the singers who's detailed where her earnings go

Reporting by Martin Morgan

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