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Azeri Activists Protest Against School Ban on Islamic Headscarf

Several dozen religious activists rallied outside Azerbaijan’s Education Ministry today to protest against a ban on Islamic headscarves in schools.

Demonstrators in the capital, Baku, chanted “God is great” and “Freedom to hijab,” the name for the scarves traditionally worn by Muslim women, before being dispersed by police, according to a video on the website of the Azeri-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

It was the second major protest outside the Education Ministry since the ban was introduced by the secular government of President Ilham Aliyev last December.

Azerbaijan’s energy transit routes to Europe bypass Russia, attracting oil companies such as London-based BP Plc. Azeri officials accuse Iran of trying to stir up Islamic protests to weaken Aliyev, 49.

The president, who took over from his father in 2003 in the first dynastic succession in a former Soviet republic, is also facing protests led by secular pro-democracy groups who are seeking to replicate the uprisings that ousted rulers in Egypt and Tunisia.

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