Aziza Kobilova, a 25-year-old housewife in eastern Tajikistan’s Rasht region, recently received notice that her marriage of four years was over.
Her husband, a migrant labourer working in Russia, first telephoned to tell Kobilova that he was divorcing her. Then he made good on his promise by sending a text message from a mobile phone that read only “talaq”, a term of estrangement that according to Sunni Muslim tradition is enough to annul a marriage.
She is not alone. With jobs at home in short supply, a large percentage of Tajikistan’s male population depends on seasonal work abroad to earn money that can be sent home.
But as this migrant culture takes root, long-distance marriages are increasingly ending in ‘sms divorce’. While reliable, divorce figures are unavailable, divorce lawyer Bakhtiyor Nasrulloev estimates that “at least one in four marriages in Tajikistan ends in divorce and a fourth of them are on sms”.
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