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Tajik Officials Decry Joblessness Among Returned Islamic Students

QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- Authorities in southern Tajikistan say they are concerned that young people have returned home from Islamic schools abroad to find no jobs or education opportunities, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
More than 1,000 young Tajiks studying at foreign madrasahs and Islamic universities returned home in recent months after President Emomali Rahmon warned that foreign religious schools are indoctrinating Tajik students with radical Islamic ideology.
At a meeting of local officials in Khatlon Province on July 1, Nusratullo Mirzoev, a deputy head of the provincial Department for National Security, said the most important task is to establish the exact number of Tajik students in Islamic countries.
Mirzoev said some 225 of the former students who returned home have already left the country again. He said officially they went to Russia as labor migrants but nobody knows their real aims and destinations.
Yusufjon Yusufzoda, a provincial prosecutor, blamed the returnees' plight on the Khatlon Department of Social Affairs and the Department of Religious Affairs. He said the departments had not done enough to create jobs or education opportunities for the former students and that most of those who came back to Khatlon have nothing to do.
But Bobokhon Sharbatov, the head of the Department for Religious Affairs, said that the constitution guarantees freedom of movement and nobody can stop anybody from traveling.
Sharbatov added that former students write that their main reason for travelling abroad is labor migration but nobody knows if this is true or not.
Sharbatov noted that some 820 students returned from Islamic countries to Khatlon. He added that of those some 485 are employed in rural farms, small businesses, and trade, 70 are studying at school or university, and 26 have been called up for military service.
The meeting concluded that the creation of employment and education opportunities for returned students is the only way to keep them in the province and avoid their returning to Islamic countries or joining extremist religious movements.