Uzbekistan lifts ban on wearing headscarf in schools after parents’ appeals

Uzbekistan will allow girls to wear headscarves in schools in a bid to ensure devout Muslim families send their daughters to school so that female attendance can increase, the Central Asian country’s Education Ministry said.

The decision follows the amendment earlier this year to the country’s law on freedom of conscience, allowing women to wear the hijab in public places.

Education Minister Sherzod Shermatov said that the authorities “intend to allow national headscarves and skullcaps in white or light colours” in schools after “the appeals of many parents”. He added that the move was necessary to ensure every child received a secular education. The minister did not however specify what age category the measures would affect.

Shermatov also presented prototypes of the permitted headscarves for girls of school age.  The samples appear to not cover the chin as is the case with the ordinary hijab – a head covering popular throughout the Muslim world.

While Islam is the dominant religion in Uzbekistan, but the authoritarian government is staunchly secular and Uzbekistan has retained tight control over the faith in the three decades of independence from the Soviet Union.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has relaxed some controls on state-sanctioned Islam since coming to power in 2016, such as reversing the ban on children attending mosques and a ban on using loudspeakers for the call to prayer.

The United States government in 2018 removed Uzbekistan’s sanction-carrying designation as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom and last year, took it off a “special watch list” of religious freedom offenders.