A scandal is bubbling between the Rector of the Tajik State Pedagogical University, Abdujabbor Rahmonov, and the only vocal national newspaper (inasmuch as it can be vocal in Tajikistan), Asia-Plus. The reason? The rector’s decision to impose a supplementary dress code on female students requiring them to wear high heeled shoes (though only up to 10cm high) and clothes made of single-block colour [ru].
I read through Asia-Plus’ latest reportage on the situation with complete bewilderment. Could it really be that the Rector believes that ordering such a dress code (which is much more explicit than the national dress code for university students) – and having security guards at the entrance of the university checking this in what in Russian is called face control – will enhance female students’ learning experience? Will it make them smarter or better equipped to learn?
Of course, the answer is no.
This is not the first time Abdujabbor Rahmonov has interfered in such affairs. As Minister of Education, he introduced a dress code into schools which included such rules as banning male teachers from having beards.
The worrying part of what would otherwise be simply a farce is that the Asia-Plus journalist who attempted to ascertain whether the university really had imposed this enhanced dress code by interviewing female students wound up in the local police station. The Rector then requested that the police investigate [ru] what he calls the ‘incorrect and illegal actions of the journalist’, allegedly so because Rahmonov happened to appear in the background of some of the journalist’s photos (she explains that he was driving in to the university when she was taking photos of the female students she had been interviewing). The good news is that the police have decided not to take the request forward [ru], as they don’t believe that the journalist had been breaking the law.
Public reaction on Asia-Plus’ Facebook page [ru/tj] has been one of both outrage, disbelief and lack of surprise. Here’s a typical (repeatable!) quote: “Where is Tajikistan and its government heading? Rather than starting with high heels… it would be better to strengthen teaching, stop bribe-taking and simply give students the chance to study…”