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2017-10-31 | Education

Debate continues on hijab ban in Kazakhstani schools


A student walks with a teacher October 11, 2006, at a Muslim lycée in Décines, France, during an open house organised by the school's operator, the Al-Kindi association. Kazakhstan is grappling with the question of whether to let schoolgirls wear hijabs. [Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP]

A student walks with a teacher October 11, 2006, at a Muslim lycée in Décines, France, during an open house organised by the school's operator, the Al-Kindi association. Kazakhstan is grappling with the question of whether to let schoolgirls wear hijabs. [Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP]

By Arman Kaliev

ASTANA -- Although most Kazakhstani students and parents are following government rules banning Islamic headscarves in schools, others are refusing to attend classes.

In January 2016, Kazakhstan adopted a law banning the hijab in schools. A subsequent directive issued by the Ministry of Education and Science outlined the requirements for school uniforms.

According to the policy, school uniforms should be in line with the secular nature of education -- incorporating religious elements into the school uniform is prohibited.

Still, some parents do not agree with the school dress code requirements, saying that the ministry's directive infringes on their children's constitutional rights.

Earlier this month, the administration of Public School No. 37 in Uralsk stopped allowing students in Muslim headscarves to attend classes.

The school sent home at least 13 pupils, according to Radio Free Europe/Radlo Liberty's Kazakh service.

Meanwhile, at Specialised Secondary School No. 30 in Atyrau, nine students who were previously suspended are back in classes after they stopped wearing their hijabs, local news reported October 18.

A contentious issue

The hijab ban violates the constitution and children's rights, argue some legal scholars, while the government insists it is maintaining a secular state.

"The ban on wearing Islamic clothing and other symbols in educational institutions is an example of discrimination and is therefore unconstitutional," Yuriy Gusakov, director of the Karaganda branch of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, told Caravanserai.

In Mangistau Province, most formerly headscarf-wearing schoolgirls have stopped wearing their headscarves to school, Yerkin Ongarbayev, acting chairman of the government's Committee for Religious Affairs, told Today.kz in September. Work continues with parents in other provinces, he said.

"The constitution of Kazakhstan gives each citizen the right to receive a high school education," Ongarbayev said. That is why a warning or fine, or even criminal prosecution, could await some parents who remain defiant.

"We are trying to convince these people that there is a school uniform, and they need to comply with this standard," he told Today.kz. "We are a secular state."

ASTANA -- Although most Kazakhstani students and parents are following government rules banning Islamic headscarves in schools, others are refusing to attend classes.

In January 2016, Kazakhstan adopted a law banning the hijab in schools. A subsequent directive issued by the Ministry of Education and Science outlined the requirements for school uniforms.

According to the policy, school uniforms should be in line with the secular nature of education -- incorporating religious elements into the school uniform is prohibited.

Still, some parents do not agree with the school dress code requirements, saying that the ministry's directive infringes on their children's constitutional rights.

Earlier this month, the administration of Public School No. 37 in Uralsk stopped allowing students in Muslim headscarves to attend classes.

The school sent home at least 13 pupils, according to Radio Free Europe/Radlo Liberty's Kazakh service.

Meanwhile, at Specialised Secondary School No. 30 in Atyrau, nine students who were previously suspended are back in classes after they stopped wearing their hijabs, local news reported October 18.

A contentious issue

The hijab ban violates the constitution and children's rights, argue some legal scholars, while the government insists it is maintaining a secular state.

"The ban on wearing Islamic clothing and other symbols in educational institutions is an example of discrimination and is therefore unconstitutional," Yuriy Gusakov, director of the Karaganda branch of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, told Caravanserai.

In Mangistau Province, most formerly headscarf-wearing schoolgirls have stopped wearing their headscarves to school, Yerkin Ongarbayev, acting chairman of the government's Committee for Religious Affairs, told Today.kz in September. Work continues with parents in other provinces, he said.

"The constitution of Kazakhstan gives each citizen the right to receive a high school education," Ongarbayev said. That is why a warning or fine, or even criminal prosecution, could await some parents who remain defiant.

"We are trying to convince these people that there is a school uniform, and they need to comply with this standard," he told Today.kz. "We are a secular state."

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6 Comments

valentUZ | 2018-06-06

...however Pioneers [the Soviet youth movement similar to the Western scout organizations; disbanded in 1991] "wore red neck scarves proudly" (after heated debate, with Lenin's face engraved on their insignia).

Олег | 2017-11-06

I think there's something bigger here. Nobody does that kind of large-scale action just for fun, and there are some forces that want to harm religion and its followers surreptitiously. If thousands of people ask the authorities to cooperate with them, why wouldn't they just listen and reach a compromise. I started to notice major changes in the discourse of religion starting in 2015, right when the Masonic Society was officially registered in the R. K. [Kazakhstan]. But, as everyone knows, the Masons are satanists.

Аяз | 2017-11-04

Scumbags, scumbags, scumbags. It would be better to raise salaries and tackle high prices. Secular states do not violate human rights.

Евгений | 2017-11-02

What is there to discuss here? The law should ban any religious attributes in educational institutions.

Аяз | 2017-11-04

[It] should be banned along with you. You are the same kind of scumbag

Нурлыбек | 2017-11-04

I totally agree. If she wears a hijab, then she doesn't need education - she will get married, turn into a housewife, give birth and raise kids. Why would she need an education if she can't work and drive a car anyway?