Teacher Dismissals Revaluated By Uzbek Authority After Negative Media Coverage
The Uzbek central authorities have stepped in after teachers in a town near the capital Tashkent raised the alarm over a series of dismissals, apparently sparked by a dispute over Islamic dress.
On June 1, 14 from schools and colleges in the town of Parkent were summoned by their directors and told to resign. Many of them agreed to do so, because they were threatened with criminal prosecution. Two school heads in the town had criminal cases launched against them on allegations that they were “Wahhabis” – in predominantly Muslim Uzbekistan, a catch-all term for anyone deemed to hold fundamentalist or extremist views.
Female teachers appear to have been targeted for wearing “hijab” or Islamic forms of dress.
"When I refused to resign, the director told me he was going to sack me anyway because it was forbidden to come to school in religious clothing," one of them said.
Another teacher said she was forced to resign because her husband has been on a wanted list for ten years on suspicion of Islamic extremist activity. She said anyone with relatives in prison or who attend mosques regularly was being dismissed.
At around the same time, seven local farmers and a group of market traders were arrested. Again, female traders in hijab were forced to leave their market stalls.
Two Tashkent-based non-government groups, the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan and the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders, sent representatives to the town to look into the dismissals.
The Initiative Group’s head, Surat Ikramov, said this produced a response from central government.
"Many media outlets started writing about it, and this seemed to scare the police and intelligence agencies," he said. "They immediately moved into action and launched an investigation."
On June 6, representatives from the Uzbek parliament’s human rights committee and from the office of the state ombudsman came to Parkent to examine the dismissal cases.
Some of the teachers involved said the publicity forced local police to call them in and take a less confrontational stance.
"The deputy head of the local police told us not to get depressed about it, as they were conducting an investigation and everything would be fine," one teacher said.
This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.
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Tags: Uzbekistan , Governance , Education , Human Rights , Islam
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