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Activists from the Azatliq Youth Union organized a "March of Grief" in Kazan today to draw attention to the status of the Tatar language in Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Protesters held posters symbolizing gravestones with the words "Tatar language," "Tatar school," "Tatarstan Constitution," and "Sovereignty" on them.

Organizer Nail Nabiullin told RFE/RL that "Tatars may lose their language very soon, the same way they already lost their sovereignty."

According to a law introduced by the Russian government earlier this year, the "national component" -- which refers to the native language and culture of non-Russians -- was removed from the country's education "standard."

The law went into effect on September 1 and means that the various non-Russian ethnic groups no longer decide whether their language, history, and culture will be taught at public schools.

Laicite On The March?

A young Muslim girl in traditional Islamic dress sports French flags and a headband that reads "Fraternity" (file photo)
Hot on the heels of Switzerland's baffling minaret ban, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's party is taking aim at the niqab and burqa, according to Reuters:

PARIS (Reuters) -- France's ruling UMP party plans to present a bill to parliament in January on banning full Islamic veils in all public places and not just in certain buildings, a senior party official have said.

The bill would be accompanied by a resolution related to respect for women, Jean-Francois Cope, the parliamentary party leader of President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP, told a news conference.

-- Andy Heil

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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