Tajikistan asks Iran to return Tajik religious students
Tajikistan has asked Tehran to repatriate religious students it says are studying illegally in Iran, as part of a Tajik government drive to limit the influence of unsanctioned Islamic learning abroad, Centralasia Newswire reported.
Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi made the request to his Iranian counterpart during a visit to Tehran this week to attend a conference of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue.
In a statement Wednesday the Foreign Ministry said, "The minister (Zarifi) requested the Iranian side to offer assistance in the organized repatriation of Tajik students illegally studying at educational institutions in Iran," the Interfax news agency reported the same day.
In late August, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon told parents with children in religious schools abroad to bring them back home before they "turn into extremists and terrorists in five, 10 years time."
At the request of the Dushanbe government, Egypt this week sent back more than 130 religious students studying at Cairo's prestigious Al-Azhar University who had not sought permission from Tajikistan's religious affairs committee to study abroad.
Meanwhile the two countries are negotiating the return of around 1,000 more students at the university.
In early September security police removed a large group of professors and students from a plane at Dushanbe airport prior to its departure for Tehran because they had not specified clearly to the authorities why they wanted to go.
According to new regulations Tajiks must obtain permission from the Education Ministry in order to study at foreign theological institutions.