Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reports that just days ahead of New Year's, Shukriya Sharipova, a homeless Tajik mother, was told by Kulob officials that she was finally getting a roof over her head.

The new home, however, turned out to be an unsanctioned mosque that was deemed by the authorities to be “illegal” and shut down last year.  And the decision to house the family in what many locals consider to be their mosque is not sitting well with some.

Deputy Mayor Kenjamoh Saidova announced on December 28 that officials had introduced Sharipova to “her new home” in the Lohouti neighborhood, not far from downtown Kulob.

The wide and airy prayer hall with a high ceiling, carved wooden doors, and large windows is a far cry from the elevator shaft in an abandoned Soviet-era construction site on the city's outskirts that Sharipova and her three young children had been calling home.

But the mosque's use as a makeshift shelter drew criticism from about a dozen local men who gathered there in protest as Sharipova returned to settle in.

“It's a mosque, designated for prayers, not for living,” Lohouti resident Islom Hasanov argued.  “If the authorities want to use this building for something else, then they should turn it to a clinic or a library.  We don't have a clinic and a library in the neighborhood.”

Hasanov and other assembled residents demanded that the government provide another place for Sharipova to live.

Sharipova said that, considering the anger of her would-be neighbors, she cannot move in.

“People are obviously unhappy about it,” she said.  “How can I possibly live here?  People would taunt me and my children if we move here. Living here would be disrespect to God and the local people.”

Sharipova now says she wants city officials to give her a land allotment to build a home, a request Lohouti residents support. Hasanov told RFE/RL they would even consider collecting money to help Sharipova build a new home.

The mosque in the Lohouti neighborhood was built by local people, but was closed down in August 2016 by city authorities who said it was constructed without official permission.

Several other prayer houses in Kulob and elsewhere in Tajikistan have been shut down in recent year as authorities intensified control over Islamic institutions, citing threats of extremism.

Recall, RFE/RL Tajik Service reported on November 28 that Shukriya Sharipova, a Tajik widow, suffers from chronic illness and is unable to work to support her family.  Without an income or a place to live in the city of Kulob, Sharipova and three of her children have made a home in the only place they could find: an elevator shaft in an unfinished building.