ASHGABAT -- Hundreds of Turkmen students enrolled at universities in Tajikistan have been barred by Turkmenistan's Migration Service from returning to resume their studies, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.
A fifth-year student from Turkmenistan's northeastern Lebap Province studying at the Tajik State Medical Institute told RFE/RL he has returned home every summer and has never before had problems leaving the country.
Most students from Lebap travel overland to Tajikistan via Uzbekistan.
But he said that on September 1 Turkmen border officials stopped him and several other students at the border and did not allow them to cross. The officials said they were acting on orders and gave no reason for the ban.
The student said his father has gone to Ashgabat to raise the issue with State Migration Service officials.
A fourth-year female student from Lebap who studies at Tajik State University also told RFE/RL that this year she and fellow students were barred from entering Uzbekistan at the Tally Merjen border crossing -- which they had used in the past -- as well as at the Farab checkpoint.
She said they were told by the Migration Office in Lebap and the State Migration Office in Ashgabat that they have been barred from crossing the border.
They were not told who imposed the ban, why, or for how long it will remain in force.
She added that about 870 Turkmen students study at Tajik State University.
Only a few Turkmen students get government scholarships to study at Tajik universities, where the annual tuition fees average about $2,000. Turkmen students from Lebap often choose Tajik schools as the tuition is cheaper than it is in Europe.
Last summer it was reported that local government officials collected detailed information from every Turkmen family and their children about their place of work or study.
Some parents say the reason for the ban on student travel to Tajikistan may be connected to the increase in activity by extremist Muslims that resulted in months of fighting by Tajik forces against purported Islamists.
The Turkmen Education Ministry has not replied to RFE/RL requests for comment on the travel ban.
Meanwhile, the Tajik Education Ministry has confirmed that no Turkmen students have returned to Tajikistan since the end of their summer vacation. It said they risk expulsion if they fail to arrive by September 20.