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Western Concern At Fate Of Sole Private Tajik University

Tajikistan's Education Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov
Tajikistan's Education Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov
DUSHANBE -- Western diplomats in Tajikistan have expressed concern over the fate of the country's only private university, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

In a letter to the Tajik government on August 17, the U.S., British, French, and German ambassadors and the head of the EU representation expressed concern at the Ministry of Education's move to revoke the academic license of the Institute of Technical Innovations and Communication (ITIC), a private higher education institution, for reasons that remain unclear.

U.S. Embassy spokesperson Rachel Cooke told RFE/RL that the signatories to the letter hope that the government will handle the case based on a transparent investigation and the rule of law, and allow ITIC students to continue their studies.

But Education Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov responded on August 17 that the decision to revoke the ITIC's license was taken not by his ministry but by the Economic Court.

ITIC head Sadriddin Akramov told RFE/RL last week that the institute filed a lawsuit against Rahmonov on July 31 in a Dushanbe district court.

In a letter to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, the education minister described the ITIC as a hotbed of antigovernment propaganda and political opposition.

The ITIC is known as the "American" university because it was founded by a Tajik-born U.S. citizen and is funded by grants from the United States and other Western countries. It has been under pressure from the Education Ministry to change its name since 2003 and has done so several times.

In September 2009, the Education Ministry demanded the closure of the institute for three months for "technical reasons" to enable the ministry to check its documents and activities. But Akramov appealed to the district court last year and chose to keep the university open pending a court ruling.

Rahmonov said at a press conference last month that the Economic Court upheld all the ministry's complaints. He said the court ruled that the ITIC should be closed and that its students continue their studies at other universities.

Akramov told RFE/RL he is convinced that the real reason the Education Ministry revoked the ITIC's license is because its teaching staff includes some prominent opposition leaders and outspoken critics of the government.

Despite the ongoing dispute, 300 would-be students submitted applications to the ITIC this year.