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Tajik Children Studying “Secretly” at Foreign Madrassas

By Jamoliddin Saifiddinov











President Imomali Rahmon’s remarks that adolescents are being spirited out of Tajikistan to study at Islamic schools or madrassas abroad have raised a debate in the country.

“Reports that over 200 adolescents are secretly studying Islam abroad give too low a figure. I believe the numbers are far higher,” Haidar Aliev, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party branch for the southern Khatlon region, said. “This could present a danger to Tajikistan, as there is no oversight.”

Analyst Dilorom Mahkamova says there are Islamist groups operating in Tajikistan that identify potential students, give them short courses in religious studies and persuade their parents to send them off to Egypt and Iran.

A Muslim cleric in southern Tajikistan, Said Ismoili Abdullo Hadzoda, defends those who go abroad to study Islam, saying the madrassas in Egypt, for example, are located in a democratic country.

The deputy head of education for Khatlon region, Nurali Azizov, says part of the reason why schoolchildren go abroad is that in mountainous regions, they have long distances to travel to get to state secondary schools, and often drop out after a few years.

Azizov says a new law has been drafted that will increase the legal obligation parents are under to ensure their children go to school.

The audio programme, in Russian and Tajik, went out on national radio stations in Tajikistan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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