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Tajik Parents Prosecuted Over Kids' Foreign Madrasah Studies

Students at a madrasah in Pakistan (file photo)
Students at a madrasah in Pakistan (file photo)
QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- Five people are facing prosecution in Tajikistan for sending their children to study in underground Islamic madrasahs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Tolibjon Azimov, an aide to the prosecutor in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province, says the parents illegally deprived their children of the right to an education at Tajik schools.

In August, President Emomali Rahmon warned that foreign religious schools are indoctrinating Tajik students with radical Islamist ideology, and he urged parents of students studying at foreign madrasahs to bring them home. Since then, officials say, some 530 students at foreign madrasahs and Islamic universities have returned to Khatlon.

Murodali Qalandarov, whose son returned from Iran, says the boy was studying at a legal Islamic school and had no problems, but he brought him home anyway in line with the presidential orders. Qalandarov says that now he is worried that the authorities could punish him, too.

Sociologist Mirzomuddin Ikromov warns that punishing parents in such cases is not a good idea. Ikromov argues that warning parents is enough to avoid such incidents in the future.

But Azimov says his office is not going to warn anybody except with regard to restrictions contained in the law on religious freedom.

He says that during the first three months of 2011, eight criminal cases of violating the law on religious freedom and worship went to court and 10 people were sentenced.

Azimov adds that over the same period, 117 people received administrative punishments and 229 mosques were closed down by provincial authorities.