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    » 10/08/2010, 00.00


    Turkmen women not allowed to study theology

    Religious studies are severely restricted. Islamic theology is taught only in one university in Ashgabat. Only ten students can register each year. Other religions cannot be taught. Only Russian Orthodoxy enjoys some privileges.

    Ashgabat (AsiaNews/F18) – Women are not allowed to study theology, including Islamic theology, the only one allowed at the university level, this according to the Forum18 news agency, which also reports that religious education is highly restricted and violations can be punished with prison.

    Theology, Islamic theology that is, is taught only at the Magtymguly Turkmen State University, a state university. Students who want to become imams must train there in a programme tightly controlled by the authorities. No would-be imam can train abroad. In 2008, the government cancelled a programme funded by Turkey that allowed Turkmen students to study at the Faculty of Islamic Theology in Uludag University in Bursa, Turkey.

    Sources told Forum18 that since the Faculty of Theology was abolished in 2005 by presidential decree, Islamic theology is taught in the Faculty of History. The five-year programme allows ten students to register each year, for a total of 50 over the five-year period.

    The ten candidates who are chosen each year are selected by the government. However, sources told Forum18 that only men can take the courses. “Women cannot study here,” they said.

    The country was once dotted with madrassah, Qur‘anic schools, but they were shut down in recent years. The last one to offer a higher Islamic education was closed in Dashoguz in 2001.

    The late President Saparmurat Niyazov imposed a numerus clausus in theology courses in 2002 and ordered all Turkish teachers to leave. He then had the faculty abolished and moved theology courses to the Faculty of History. The building that once housed the Faculty of Theology was torn down in the summer of 2009.

    Restrictions have been imposed on other religions as well. Only the Russian Orthodox Church can send abroad some of its members to study religion. Many go to Tashkent (Uzbekistan), because many Turkmen Orthodox parishes come under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Tashkent. Relations with the Orthodox Theological Seminary of Smolensk, Russia, are also very good.

    Other religious groups require permits, which are not easily granted, to teach religion, even Sunday catechism. Anyone who offers unauthorised courses can be heavily fined or go to prison.

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    See also

    09/08/2008 TURKMENISTAN
    Everyday religious repression
    Group prayers require state authorisation, something hard to get. Police raids, seizes and fines all illegal religious activity. The Catholic Church has only one site. Imams are under tight control.

    17/10/2008 KYRGYZSTAN
    Kyrgyzstan to restrict religious freedom
    Restrictive draft bill, which passed first reading in Kyrgyz parliament, will especially affect minorities. A ban is imposed on religions not recognised by the government and on proselytising.

    22/12/2006 TURKMENISTAN
    After Niyazov, still few hopes for religious freedom
    Who will be the next leader remains uncertain. Believers ask themselves whether there will be changes or whether the personality cult of the dead president will continue. Some experts speak.

    18/05/2012 TURKMENISTAN
    Ashgabat: second Jehovah's Witness sentenced to forced labour in 2012
    Aibek Salayev, 33, was accused of "distributing pornography". Supreme Court upholds his conviction, which goes into effect immediately. He will go to the Karabogaz camp on the Caspian Sea. Another Jehovah's Witness was sentenced to two years of hard labour for conscientious objection.

    18/11/2006 IRAN
    Teheran steps up gender segregation

    New regulations have been put in place to segregate men and women in offices, hospitals and universities to "preserve Islamic culture". Using religion as a pretext, Teheran is targeting women as one of the most active elements of Iranian society, dangerous because of its strong calls for reforms and human rights.

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