Seasonal migration from Tajikistan to Russia is destroying families and leaving thousands to grow up without fathers.
Our journey begins at a wedding in southern Tajikistan, where a young bride is getting married. But what should be a day of joy, is tinged with sadness as her groom will soon have to leave the country.
Every year a million men leave Tajikistan to find work in Russia. Many find new families abroad, divorce their wives or simply never return.
The women often left destitute are forced to do what would have been men’s jobs or in some cases, are so desperate, they have to put their children into institutions.
Tajikistan was once the breadbasket of the Soviet Union; today, the country’s farms are worked by women.
About 100,000 men were killed in a civil war that raged through the 1990s, but the gender imbalance has worsened as more and more men leave the country to find work on Russian construction sites.
Back home, after the secularism of Soviet rule, Islam is enjoying a resurgence and many Tajiks are married via a Nikah, a traditional Muslim ceremony.
These marriages can be dissolved by the utterance of the word “Talak” three times. Talak is supposed to be said in front of witnesses and with the approval of an imam, but migration has led to a wave of divorces communicated by text message.
Divorce by SMS has become such a problem that the country’s religious leader Saidmukaram Abduqodirzoda regularly uses sermons to chide men on the subject.
For the women abandoned, some are forced to send their children to work, or to live in institutions. Increasing numbers are joining polygamous marriages.
While polygamy is illegal in Taijikistan, the numbers are climbing as migrant men choose to stay in Russia indefinitely and the choice of eligible men in Tajikistan declines. As polygamy is against the law, second and third wives cannot be registered so whilst it can make financial sense in the short term, the women are financially vulnerable again in the event of a breakup
What happens when Tajikistan’s husbands and fathers leave for work in Russia, sometimes never to return? @AJ101East #TJMissingMen
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