Kyrgyzstan to decide on national hat's status

Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP) –


Kyrgyzstan is gearing up to introduce legislation that would oblige its president to wear a national pointed hat on diplomatic trips following a national uproar.

On Monday a parliamentary committee supported the proposal -- which will also see fines levied for insults to the felt hat -- the first step towards the legislation's introduction for a general parliamentary vote.

The bill is a result of a furore that erupted in late 2017 when a dog was photographed wearing an Ak-Kalpak hat at a dog show.

The headpiece, which is usually white, has a special place in the Central Asian country, revered so much that it has its own national day.

The four-panelled hat symbolises "the peaks of the magnificent Kyrgyz mountains, forever snow-capped," a former presidential advisor, Topchubek Turgunaliyev, told AFP last year.

Patriots called for the dog's owners to be punished for insulting the hat, triggering heated debate in the parliament, which passed a law to give the Ak-Kalpak hat its own honorary date in the calendar -- March 5 -- in 2016.

One of the initiators of the legislation, Ekmat Baibakpayev, on Monday cited the dog's "defilement" of the hat as a key justification for drafting the bill.

"I aspire to the Ak-Kalpak having the same status and immunity as the coat of arms and flag of the Kyrgyz Republic," Baibakpayev said in parliament.

Since a popular uprising in 2010, politicians in the Muslim majority country have focused keen attention on matters of national identity and culture.

In 2011, a statue of a woman holding aloft the symbolic "tunduk", the criss-crossed centrepiece of a yurt, was torn down amid arguments that it was a bad omen for a female to do so.

Critics say officials devote too much time to populist initiatives rather than fighting graft and pushing through reforms in one of the poorest nations of the former Soviet Union.