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U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on Turkmenistan's government to reverse a ban on students bound for foreign private universities.

HRW is also calling for Turkmenistan to end "new, burdensome requirements for studying abroad that violate the rights of freedom of movement and to education."

An HRW statement from August 31 says that "since July 2009, Turkmen authorities have prevented hundreds of students from boarding planes and crossing land borders to depart for study abroad."

Under the new requirements, students must hand over several documents, including an invitation from the university, a copy of the university's license, verification of its state-affiliation status, a copy of the contract between the student and the university, and a passport, to seek permission to travel outside the country.

Maria Lisitsyna of HRW was quoted as saying "these arbitrary travel restrictions are disturbing new proof of how repressive Turkmenistan's government is."
Moscow riot police detain rights activist Lev Ponomarev.
Dozens of activists were detained at an opposition gathering in downtown Moscow, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

The activists were taking part in a March of Dissent on August 31 in the capital’s Triumfal’naya square. The rally had not been sanctioned by city authorities.

Those detained include Eduard Limonov, one of the leaders of the Other Russia coalition group that organized the gathering.

Our correspondent says the square was surrounded by OMON special police forces who detained activists as soon as they exited the nearby metro station.

Prominent Russian rights activist Lev Ponomarev, the leader of the For Human Rights movement, was also briefly detained.

A member of Other Russia's executive committee, Aleksandr Averin, told RFE/RL that city authorities had recommended moving the rally to another site but that the coalition declined.

Limonov said earlier the aim of the gathering was to remind authorities about Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which gives all citizens the right to hold mass gatherings and assemblies.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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