Conflict between religious and secular education in southern Kyrgyzstan: artificial problem
The forthcoming recess will make students' parents happy. They will be able to forget about the so called religious issue that has been the talk of the day (and subject of heated debates) at secondary schools in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. Officials of the central government accuse of students' parents and school principals of "Islamization" of the process of education. Parents in their turn maintain that state officials encroach on their kids' freedom of faith.
A careless onlooker may get the erroneous impression that everything comes down to the wearing of headcloths demanded by the Shar'ah law but outlawed by the authorities. (Under the Shar'ah law, girls of nine years and more must always wear one to hide their hair and necks from strangers' looks.) The Jalalabad Municipal Directorate of Education is convinced that the wearing of headcloths is a violation of school clothing regulations. Girls' families point out in their turn that there is no law that forbids a girl to wear one. As it turns out, however, headcloths are not the only problem. Children take to religious classes at mosques with such abandon that they choose to miss regular schools. Besides, children miss their classes Fridays, preferring the traditional Friday prayer.
Civil society is similarly worried. The Jalalabad Uzbek Society officially appealed to imams and Moslem leaders several months ago with the request to make sure that kids are getting proper education. The addressees were sympathetic. These days, imams mention the necessity of school education in prayers and lectures.
Objectively, headcloths are actually nothing compared to the other problem - that children choose one sort of education (religious) over the other (secular).
The parliament of Kyrgyzstan discussed Gansi US AF Base located in Manas, yesterday. The matter was brought up by lawmaker Almanbet Matubraimov who had been greatly upset by the words of US State Secretary Condolleezza Rice allegedly concerning the potential attack on Iran. According to what Matubraimov said he had found in the Internet, Rice announced that the first air raid into Iran would be ordered from the American AF base in Kyrgyzstan.
Iranian sources in Bishkek assure in the meantime that Tehran is not going to hesitate, that it will immediately retaliate and strike at the site US missiles were launched from, i.e. at Kyrgyzstan. Matubraimov called for consolidation of all branches of the government (president, parliament, and government) on the matter of the presence of the American military base on the territory of the republic.
Matubraimov's next question stunned the parliament too. He inquired if his colleagues had heard anything about the tents on the territory of the US military base the Americans were allegedly using to camouflage underground bunkers.
Marat Sultanov, chairman of the Kyrgyz parliament, answered some of these questions at the press conference on the parliamentary delegation's return from Moscow. Commenting on the possibility of involvement of the AF base in question in the offensive against Iran, Sultanov actually repeated what he had told US Ambassador Mary Jovanovic several weeks ago. "The US AF Base is an element of the Afghani operation," he said. "The first suspicion that it may be used for any different purpose, and we will demand its withdrawal."
Neither did Sultanov forget about Kant AF Base not far from Bishkek. "The forces there are predominantly Russian but it is a military object of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization all the same," he said. "That makes it a military object of Kyrgyzstan. We cannot very well call it a foreign military base, can we?"
"We advised the Russian side to reinforce Kant and asked for its assistance to the Kyrgyz army and border guards," Sultanov added without saying exactly where, when, or at what level the advise and the request had been made.
When in Moscow, Sultanov met with his Russian counterpart Boris Gryzlov, Deputy Premier Sergei Naryshkin, Andrei Kokoshin of the Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, and some members of the Federation Council. What information is available to this newspaper indicates that the issue of the Russian military presence and its buildup was never even brought up. General Nikolai Bordyuzha, General Secretary of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization who is currently in Kyrgyzstan, denied any plans "to strengthen or whatever the AF base because we already have we need there." Neither was Bordyuzha overly upset by the US base nearby. "After all, this base was established only after talks and consultations with allies and leaders of Kyrgyzstan," he said. "Afghanistan will become a stable country one fine day and necessity of the American AF base will fade."
In any case, Sultanov's words may indicate that official Bishkek is launching an information campaign on the eve of the summit of the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation scheduled to take place in the capital of Kyrgyzstan this August. Leaders of the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation may decide to discuss the American AF base in Kyrgyzstan all over again. The summit of the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation in Astana in 2005 actually asked Washington to tell the world when it intended to withdraw its military bases from Central Asia. The Americans closed their base in Hanabad, Uzbekistan, that year but retained the one in Bishkek.