President Saparmurat Niyazov said on Thursday that the Education Ministry should be in charge of checking people’s hair and facial arrangements.
The self-styled “Turkmenbashi the Great” also announced the launch of a textbook on good behaviour to add to a school curriculum already dominated by his “philosophical” works.
The volume, entitled Upbringing, is based on the “wisdom of the ancient traditions of the Turkmen people who through the ages developed clear-cut norms of behaviour and socialisation”.
Niyazov has clung to power since the end of Soviet rule in the Central Asian republic and in 1999 was officially declared president-for-life.
Special university departments have been set up to give all students an appreciation of Niyazov’s existing works such as the Rukhnama, or “Spiritual Guide,” and “The Three Evils Threatening our Society” – a poetry volume on the alleged threat posed by indiscipline, arrogance and “wayward thinking.”
Critics have charged that Niyazov’s educational reforms are ushering in a conservative blend of nationalism and nomadic tradition while he has crushed all dissent among the central Asian country’s five-million-population.
Central Asian beards have a way
The president has cut the period of school education from 10 to nine years meaning that most young people leave school at 16 and are unable to get into Russian universities previously seen as offering the education of choice for Turkmenistan’s brightest.
Niyazov’s rule in the central Asian state has always been authoritarian, but his latest decree on hair is a yet more extreme example of state intervention in people’s private lives.
The president-for-life appeared on television saying that men can no longer grow their hair and that beards are not allowed, especially the young.
He gave no reason, but the move is likely to be seen as anti-Islamic move in a majority Muslim country – the Prophet Muhammad encouraged men to grow their beards.
Other extreme laws
It is also forbidden to listen to car radios or to smoke in the street. Even opera and ballet performances have been banned on the grounds that they are unnecessary.
Turkmenbashi the Great 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.
On 1 March he is to fire 15,000 nurses and other health workers and replace them with army conscripts.