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Kyrgyz Protesters Demand Hijab Be Allowed In Schools

Women protest against a government ban on wearing Muslim head scarves in public schools in Bishkek on September 19.
BISHKEK -- Dozens of activists have demonstrated in front of the Kyrgyz Education Ministry to demand that Islamic head scarves be allowed in secondary schools, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Education Minister Kanat Sadykov later held talks with several representatives of the protesters in Bishkek, but the results of those meetings were not made public.

Protest organizer Duishon Abdyldaev, who heads the nongovernmental group Reason and Conscience, told RFE/RL that demonstrations will spread to other parts of the country on September 23 if girls wearing hijabs continue to be expelled or kept from attending classes at secondary schools.

On September 15, Kanatbek Turdukojoev, an imam in the northern village of Orto-Oruktu, filed a lawsuit against a secondary school for not allowing his daughter to wear an Islamic head scarf.

The Bishkek-based NGO Mutakallim, which defends the rights of Kyrgyz Muslim women, held a meeting on September 13 at which NGO leader Jamal Frontbek-Kyzy said female students who wear the Islamic head scarf are being discriminated against.

Frontbek-Kyzy said when the school year began on September 1 many female Muslims were either forced to remove their head scarves at school or were sent home if they refused to take them off.

Education and Science Ministry officials insists that while there is no law banning Islamic head scarves at secondary schools, there is an established school uniform for students and it does not include a head scarf.

Read more in Kyrgyz here. See photo gallery here