“Why do you sell it [sex]?”
“Please, don’t do that…. I have a two-year old son…. I swear on the Quran, I will leave this job. If you see me here one more time, kill me.”
In one video, a middle-aged woman tries to hide her face from the camera as she admits that she is a sex worker. She begs the man with the camera not to punish her. The man behind the camera rages at the woman and her friend for “debasing the name of Tajiks” in Russia. He threatens to punish them by shaving their heads and disseminating the video through social media.
Despite pleading for anonymity the women are forced to reveal their identities. They kneel in frightened obeisance, waiting for their heads to be shaved. The shocking scene is trending in Tajikistan circles on Odnoklassniki — a popular social network founded in Russia — and on YouTube.
A number of videos of Central Asian women accused of prostitution and generally “shaming their nation and religion” have been uploaded onto file-sharing platforms by anonymous users in recent times. The videos, deleted by social media moderators, reappear again after being uploaded by different users.
While the world speaks out about the enslavement of women by ISIS, netizens in Central Asia are vigorously discussing videos portraying the relentless persecution and physical punishment of Central Asian women suspected of prostitution.
Videos of Kyrgyz and Tajik female migrants facing public humiliation in Russia are nothing new, but a copycat tendency means the phenomenon has now affected the migrant communities of other states in the region. In November a video appeared on YouTube showing two young women in Uzbekistan sitting with their hands tied behind their backs. The man in the video beats them with a stick while calling them sluts.
This incident is filmed in front of other people, including women and teenagers. Although the original was deleted from YouTube, a section of the video is still accessible via RFE/RL's channel on the service.
Meanwhile, an older video featuring Tajik women being humiliated by a male compatriot in Russia is currently gaining popularity among Odnoklassniki-using Tajiks again. The reposted video has gathered more than 5,200 comments in recent weeks. Global Voices has decided not to disclose the names of commenters due to the sensitivity of the topic.
Comparatively few commenters condemned the honour-based punishment, with the remainder, both men and women, cheering the tormentors on.
One female user, M., calls the women in the video, “sluts, without honour.” Another prays for “…all Muslim women to be prevented from the wrong path and guided towards the right way, and to have the honour of hijab.” S., also a woman, condemns the families of the victims: “If the family is a good family, then children also will be raised as good people.”
Comments from male users tend towards brutality. T. wrote: “Their heads should be shaved bald and then they should be sent out (to the street).” R. echoes T.’s sentiments, while another user, I. praises the men carrying out the punishment, “Let Allah increase the number of this type of honourable Tajik men.”
H. suggests a more radical punishment: “… In Afghanistan they would get hanged or shot as dogs.” Some, including D. and B. are for burning the women alive. B. says, “We, Tajiks, are merciful. Another nation would shoot them.”
But a minority of commenters display sympathy towards the victims. One poster, who goes by the name ‘I’ am afraid only of Allah,’ wrote: “…Better give them $100 and tell them to go home…” J. scolds the makers of the video and its supporters, saying: “…if these women would come to you and ask for 1,000 somoni [$200], none of you would give them anything. You consider yourself judges? Only God is a judge for Muslims.”
A. added: “You tell them that they are bringing shame to the name of Tajiks? She regrets what she did. But you bring shame on Tajiks by making this video and showing it to everyone.”