Muslim girls not permitted to wear hijab to the
college in Kirgizia
Disputes over the hijab, traditional
Muslim headgear, continue to torment Kyrgyz schools. They inevitably
become outright heated with the onset of every school year. This time,
however, the ban to wear the hijab at schools will apparently become
official (principals ascribe it to the new school charters).
Ferghana.Ru correspondent visited several schools in the southern
regions of Kyrgyzstan only to discover that not even teachers there had
the charter yet. They say they are still waiting to receive the new
charters from the education departments of local administrations.
The Nookat district of the Osh region is not an exception. Every school
there has a score of girls who wear the hijab. Teachers want them
bareheaded in class and threaten with expulsion for disobedience.
Doctor Bahodir Abdurahmanov is the
father of two girls. He said one of his daughters had been told at
school that she out to discard the hijab or face expulsion.
"She is an eighth-former now who has been wearing
the hijab since when she was 6 and became a true believer. There have
never been any trouble before recently. She came home one day, burst
into tears, and said the teachers wouldn't permit it anymore. They say
they have their orders from superiors, you know. It's strange, because
every person is free to worship. The way I see it, teachers are supposed
to teach, nothing more. Whether or not someone wears the hijab is none
of their business. Anyway, teachers keep saying they have the order and
demanding no hijabs worn in class. My daughter wouldn't obey and they
threaten her with expulsion," Abdurahmanov said.
As a matter of fact, this girl's story is quite typical. Canons of the
Islam demand that once a girl comes of age at 9, she must always hide
her head and body from strange men. That is why most girls begin to wear
the hijab at 9.
Jibek Asanova's granddaughter is in the fifth form of a lyceum where the
same ridiculous demand is made. "Whose business is
it? Every Muslim woman must wear the hijab. I'm happy that my
granddaughter does. Either the ban is lifted or I'm taking her out of
this lyceum," Asanova said.
Human rights activist Abdumannop
Khalilov of the Democracy and Law Promotion Foundation says this
organizations is showered with complaints from the people whose children
report their freedom of conscience and freedom to worship encroached on.
"A similar episode happened in the Osh region here
a couple of years ago," the human rights activist said.
"We knocked at every education department's door
at all levels - district and regional - but we were never shown any
document, official instruction, or whatever else banning the hijab at
schools. The ban was eventually lifted." According to Khalilov,
neither does the Constitution ban the wearing of clothes required by
nothing in the Constitution or elsewhere against the wearing of headgear
in public places," Khalilov said. "We made
a formal appeal to law enforcement agencies and education departments to
permit the hijab because it will be encroachment on girls' rights
otherwise. School charter cannot have precedence over the law, much less
over the Constitution. Composed as it is by the school administration,
it is probably supposed to be submitted to Justice Ministry structures
but I do not expect that anybody bothers."
Ikram Rakhamov, the head of the Nookat District Education Department,
points out that "yes, school charters exist" but "no, the hijab wearing
is not encouraged." "Religion is separated from the state in Kyrgyzstan,
you know," Rakhamov told Ferghana.Ru.
Ilmira Shakirova, deputy principal at one of the local schools, recalled
uniforms introduced years ago in the Soviet past. "We did invite an
'imam' to the school year opening ceremony. He said that it was a state
school and that girls should therefore remove the hijab, particularly
when it was demanded of them by teachers,"
Deputy principal of another local school claims that no complaints from
parents have been received so far. Neither, according to her, are the
girls forced to attend classes bareheaded. Parents in the meantime claim
to have made numerous complaints to the principals and to the
prosecutor's office. "Go to a mosque if you want
etiquette. We are talking school here, and girls should behave and as
what they are told," Shakirova said.
Not all schools in Kyrgyzstan have outlawed the hijab. Sources in Osh
say, for example, that there are no bans at Khamza School there. On the
other hand, the local human rights community knows of the episodes when
the wearing of the hijab cost girls or their families a fine of 700 soms
Will girls in the Nookat district be left alone? It remains to be seen.
Officials and teachers refer to school charters, girls and their
families to the freedom to worship.
Each side has its own story to tell. Teachers say they expect
prosecutors at every school soon. These latter will talk to pupils to
try to persuade them not to wear the hijab. The district prosecutor's
office in the meantime wouldn't confirm this information.