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Seven girls quit school in Chita not allowed to wear headscarves

November 22, 2013, 12:11 UTC+3 CHITA

In July, Russia’s Supreme Court confirmed as legal the ban for girls from Muslim families to wear hijabs at schools in the Stavropol territory

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© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Uzakov

CHITA, November 22. /ITAR-TASS/. Seven school girls in Chita quit school as the educational institution’s administration did not allow them to attend classes in traditional Muslim headscarves, called hijabs in Europe, the school’s director Yuri Manyakhin told Itar-Tass on Monday.

The ban to wear religious clothes was based on the order of the local ministry of education, sciences and youth policy. The document’s purpose is to eliminate demonstration of social and confession differences among pupils. “This also complies with the school charter, which announces a secular character of our school,” the director said.

He said that before introducing the ban, the school management had spoken to parents. “We had a meeting with parents, where he explained that school uniform should be the same for all,” he said. “During the first quarter of the year, girls wore the headscarves. But after the school holidays, seven girls quit studies.”

The director said three girls would take lessons at home, but four girls had quit studies for good. A social teacher comes to the families of the four girls to explain to the parents the girls may be dismissed officially if they continue missing classes. “We said the girls could wear hijabs as they are leaving the school building after classes, but the parents would not agree,” the teacher said. “On the other hand, wearing religious clothes at school may provoke conflicts among pupils.”

Head of the Trans-Baikal Territory’s Spiritual Board of Muslims Rishat Saidashev has different views on the issue. “Girls are not obliged to wear hijabs before the legal age, which comes with the first period. After that, the Muslim laws say, girls should cover head,” he said. “It is not obligatory to wrap up a child in a headscarf and to make her a rara avis. A hijab may be accurate, beautiful, and it may be replaced with a hat.”

The school director said the oldest girl was a seven-grade pupil. Two others were in the sixth grade, and the rest were the youngest.

As the hijab ban came into force, the girls’ parents addressed human rights ombudsman in the Trans-Baikal Territory Nikolai Kargin. “Following the Islamic religion, my daughters simply must wear headscarves,” the ombudsman’s site quotes a girl’s mother as saying in her letter. “My elder daughter has studied at that school for four years, and was wearing the headscarf all the time, never having caused any conflicts from pupils, parents or even teachers.” The woman stressed “the headscarves do not hide faces, they cover only ears, neck and hair.”

Anyway, the ombudsman supported the school head. “I would not call it a ban as yet. It is rather a recommendation,” he said. “The school’s decision complies with the federal and regional legislations, and thus cannot be considered illegal. At the same time, school directors should solve the issues exclusively by measures of persuasion. Whatever repressive measures are out of question here.”

In July, Russia’s Supreme Court confirmed as legal the ban for girls from Muslim families to wear hijabs at schools in the Stavropol territory. Later on, Ingushetia supported the ban.

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