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Uzbeks move to regulate large social gatherings
New guidelines aim to limit size, time, and cost of events such as weddings to promote responsibility and modesty.
By Shakar Saadi
TASHKENT – The Tashkent municipal government recently moved to regulate family celebrations and other events with more than 100 guests at wedding halls, restaurants and cafes across the capital.
The move comes because many such events spiral out of control – lasting all day and night, costing a small fortune and disrupting the peace – and often leave vendors frustrated by non-payment and the hosts in debt.
From now on, hosts must have written contracts with service providers specifying the number of guests, the terms of payment, the music arrangements, time frames and any other details, according to the new regulations. The rules also prohibit wedding fireworks and large wedding motorcades that block traffic.
"Weddings have become a platform for the hosts to show off," Zukrha Yarasheva, a member of her mahalla (neighbourhood association), told Central Asia Online. "They often go into debt to put on a wedding for 450-500 guests.”
The law comes at the right time, she said, adding that it reminds Uzbeks to think twice about unnecessary spending at weddings or other family celebrations.
"We are talking to the people of our mahalla, and we are trying to convince them that it is unwise to host events where the number of guests exceeds 100-150,” said Aslan Zoirov, a member of the Yangi-Aryk Mahalla. "People spend years saving up the money to put on such events and in doing so deny themselves many things or go into debt.”
Regulations will mean more tax revenue
In addition, vendors must be licensed and everything must be "on the books," meaning appropriate taxes must be paid.
"On the one hand, it [a contract] legitimises the relationship between the customer and the restaurant owner," Olim Mullabayev, who will be celebrating his son’s wedding in a restaurant soon, told Central Asia Online. "But, on the other hand, all of the additional expenses associated with income taxes will fall on the customers’ shoulders."
Restaurant owner Abdukadir Abdurakhmanov admitted that "Beforehand, not all of the money received from the customer went on the books. This was done in order to pay less tax," so he understands the need for the regulations.
And he agreed with Mullabayev that the tax burden will likely be passed on to customers.
Not everyone, though, is happy about the limitations on crowd size.
Tashkent resident Abulfoz Choriyev said if he can afford to throw a wedding for 600 guests he should be able to. "Why are they trying to impose limits on me?" he asked.
But limitations actually are in accord with Islamic values. In 2003, mufti Abdurashid kori Bakhromov, then the chairman of the Spiritual Administration for Muslims of Uzbekistan (SAMU), signed a fatwa condemning excessive spending and waste on weddings, ceremonies and rituals.
"This (wild spending) goes against the precepts of Islam," Haji Abdurazzak Yunusov, deputy chairman of SAMU, explained to Central Asia Online. "None of the holy books says that we should turn a religious ceremony into a luxurious feast."
Too many musicians, too early a start
The event’s musical performers will also have to be licensed and specified in the contract.
Currently, an average of four or five bands and soloists perform at a wedding, Yelena Golikova, a senior manager of an event-planning agency, told Central Asia Online.
From now on, the event may take place in a wedding hall, restaurant or cafe between the hours of 7 and 9am, noon and 2pm, or 6 and 11pm. That regulation puts an end to the habit of serving plov, a traditional rice dish, at 5-6am.
"People are free to make their own decisions about how much they want to spend on an event," Gulnora Yulchiyeva, who works for the nationwide charity Mahalla, said. "Our task is to reason with people, not control them. We want to promote the values of restraint and humility, so that they become the norm."
Chirchik resident Manzura Yuldasheva agrees with the merits of that theory.
"We had a modest wedding and invited only close friends and relatives. We made plov for 100 people and reduced our expenses three-fold,” she said. “With the money we saved, the newlyweds were able to have a holiday abroad."