Uzbek Students Unhappy with "Prison-Style" Rules

  • Students in Tashkent. (Photo: IWPR)

Students across Uzbekistan have been banned from criticising educational staff, wearing gaudy clothing and discussing campus matters online.

The education ministry told students to read and sign a new 23-page code in December, and the regulations that it sets out came into effect in the New Year.

Students at universities, colleges and vocational schools now have to act “in compliance with the traditions of national independence ideology,” according to the code, and can expect to fail exams or face expulsion if they contravene the rules.

As well as prohibiting gaudy or religious dress, the code forbids “rock concerts alien to the national mentality” on campus.

In a clause which some students said they find confusing, the code also requires them to “facilitate the blocking of foreign religious and extremist influences".

An education ministry official said the rules will promote higher standards of morality among the young, but several students said they found them authoritarian, infuriating and of questionable legality.

"Our every step is prescribed and we are being directed what to do and how to behave," said a 23-year-old studying to be a teacher in the capital Tashkent, who compared the student code to prison regulations.

The code appeared following a year in which an increasing number of young Uzbeks began accessing the internet, in particular social networking sites and web forums.

A law student said the ban on discussing campus matters online contravened the constitution, which outlaws censorship, and a 2002 law on freedom of information.

Officials have defended the rules, saying they are necessary and will play an important role in preserving moral standards.

"Educational institutions will not be turned into places where everything is permissible," said Jahongir Ismoilov, who heads an education ministry department in Tashkent.

This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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