Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan taking action to curb sorcery and charlatanism

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan taking action to curb sorcery and charlatanism
Ritual punishment in store for "fake" witches. / Devin H via Unsplash, t.ly/eIf4C
By Eurasianet May 24, 2024

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are Central Asian states with teetering economies. The Economist Intelligence Unit, for instance, says “the risk of sovereign default” in Kyrgyzstan is high, while adding that “poverty, unemployment, austerity, power shortages and political oppression are possible sources of destabilization in 2024-25” in Tajikistan.

Despite the two countries’ myriad economic challenges, lawmakers and law enforcers in both Central Asian states are making time to crack down on sorcery and fortune-telling. 

In Tajikistan, authorities literally went on a witch hunt, resulting in the arrest of more than 50 alleged practitioners of dark arts in the remote Ghafurov District alone, Asia-Plus reported on May 21, citing an Interior Ministry statement. Earlier in May, the government approved amendments that criminalised sorcery, fortune-telling and similar services, characterising their practitioners as grifters. Prior to the revision, such offences were treated as administrative offences.

“Each [of those arrested] provided services to residents of the district and neighbouring territories, using various tricks and techniques to make money,” said the Tajik Interior Ministry statement about the security sweep. At least one of those detained is facing a criminal charge of fraud.

In Kyrgyzstan, MPs similarly cracked down on conjuring, adopting amendments to ban public advertising by those professing to be healers and psychics, or anyone else claiming to be in possession of a crystal ball or eye of newt. The ban extends not just to print and broadcast media, but also covers social media.

The measure is designed to prevent “unscrupulous citizens” from taking advantage of vulnerable segments of society, said Marlen Mamataliev, one of the sponsors of the amendments.

This article first appeared on Eurasianet here.