In their attempt to curb radicalisation, police in Tajikistan shaved beards of nearly 13,000 men and convinced hundreds of women to remove their headscarves – Islamic hijabs. More than 160 shops selling Muslim clothing have also been shut to end "foreign influences", a term used to describe radical Islam in the country.
Authorities in the former Soviet republic said that the beards were "overly long and unkempt". Bahrom Sharifzoda, chief of south-west Khathlon region's police force, told reporters that 1,773 girls and women were "convinced" to remove their headwear in 2015.
Sharifzoda also displayed photographs of a man "before and after" his beard was shaved to show the law enforcement agencies operations. The cleanly-shaven police chief said he was "brought to order", according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The official added that the police had arrested 89 hijab-wearing prostitutes during the year in the Muslim-majority country. Its secular regime has been stepping up efforts to restrain any form of Islamic extremism – largely in fear of spilling over from neighbouring Afghanistan.
To stamp out extremism, the country has already barred minors in mosques and forced thousands of students to return home from Islamic schools abroad.
The announcement has come just a week after the Tajik government led by President Emomali Rahmon cracked down on Arabic-sounding "foreign" names saying they are banned. In recent years, names such as Muhammad and Yusuf have become popular for boys in the country of nearly 8.3 million people. The parliament's legislation is expected to be approved by the president shortly.