Govt Announces Ban On Hijabs In Schools, Gives Reasons

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The Kazakh government has banned hijab headscarves for students and teachers at schools. Officials stress the need to preserve secularism, meanwhile some girls are dropping out of school in protest.

The Kazakh government’s recent announcement of a ban on wearing the hijab headscarf in educational institutions has sparked fierce debate in the country.

“Requirements for the school uniform prohibit the wearing of the hijab, since any attribute, symbol, element in one way or another implies propaganda of the dogma to which they relate. Ensuring the equality of all religions before the law, the principles of secularism do not allow the advantage of any religion,” reads the statement on the “For citizens” section of the Kazakh government’s website, dated October 16.

The statement also bans the hijab for school teachers. However, it emphasizes that the ban does not apply outside of schools.

A secular state
According to official figures, almost 70% of Kazakhstan’s population practices Islam. But both supporters and opponents of the ban quickly came forward. Proponents stressed that Kazakhstan was a secular country and should therefore avoid privileging any particular religion. Opponents however believe that such restrictions violate the principles of freedom of conscience, and some have taken extreme measures to protest the ban.

Kazakh Education Minister Gani Beisembayev confirmed that in the Atyrau region alone, 150 girls have dropped out of school since the beginning of September because of the ban. And in the Turkestan region, two men reportedly beat a local school director because she refused to allow girls wearing hijabs to attend classes.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also commented on the matter at the national teachers’ congress in the capital Astana, saying that a school is an educational institution where people come to acquire knowledge, while religious beliefs are a private matter. “Freedom of religion is guaranteed by law in our country. I think it is right for children to decide for themselves when they grow up and develop their own worldview,” Tokayev said, adding that Kazakhstan was and would remain a secular state.

So far the authorities have not objected to this suggestion, though the ban on wearing the hijab applies to all educational institutions in Kazakhstan without exception.

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