Turkmen students face currency restrictions in battle against terrorism

March 7, 2003

Students who leave the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan to study at overseas universities at their own expense have been barred from acquiring hard currency to pay for their courses.

On the orders of the president, Saparmyrat Niyazov, the country's central bank can exchange Turkmen mantas for foreign hard currency only for students on approved programmes covered by interstate and intergovernmental agreements. Without the hard currency, self-funded students will find it hard to meet their costs.

The restrictions are part of a package of rules on entry to and exit from Turkmenistan, that was introduced in the fight against terrorism.

The authorities in the five former Soviet Central Asian republics are constantly on watch for any threat of Islamic militancy and are concerned about the recruitment of young men by Islamic colleges abroad. However, President Niyazov has frequently indicated a special interest in Turkmen students. In the past few years he has introduced dress code for students (to include the Turkmen national headdress) and required everyone attending an educational establishment, from kindergarten to university, to swear a sacred oath of loyalty to the president.

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