Dating is not common and it is rare to see young unmarried couples strolling arm in arm down the streets of Khujand.Shoira, a recently married 26-year old woman, summarizes the situation: "My parents didn't even allow me to be in a mixed group of girls and boys, let alone date." Without the freedom to be seen in each others' company, the cell phone has become a behind-the-scenes mode of communication between the sexes.Harris observed that "the only successful rebellions I saw were carried out by young people who spent most of their time in the Russian Federation, and were independent financially and socially." What is clear, however, is that the seeds of rebellion have been sown and are slowly beginning to take root. Some of the women profiles you see here might be scams to collect money.Despite lacking much control over their choice of spouse, young men and women are still often eager to marry.Mohira confessed: "I'm excited for my wedding even though I don't know who I will be with." Even among men, there is a palpable anxiety when it comes to the topic of marriage.Cell phones have become widely available only within the last few years, but they already play a role in both initiating and perpetuating covert liaisons.Many women report receiving phone calls from unknown males -- who dial at random until a female voice answers -- attempting to start a relationship with them.
"During our chats, he asked for my details so he could buy me a ticket to come to him," Manzura told Radio Ozodi.
Despite the prevalence of cell phones, traditional ways remain predominant -- at least publicly.
The pressure to marry early is pervasive in Tajikistan with roughly half of the female population married by age of 20, according to government statistics.
She too enjoys Shahrukh's films, but dismisses them as "fantasy." Colette Harris, senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia and author of Muslim Youth: Tensions and Transitions in Tajikistan, told Eurasia Net that "the greatest cause of tension between young people and their parents is around rights of decision making." In particular, control over choice of marital partners is of paramount concern.
"One of the most shaming things a young person can do in many Tajik families is to choose his or her own marriage partner," added Harris.