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Russia upholds hijab ban at Stavropol region schools

Russia's Supreme Court upheld on Wednesday a ban on hijabs at schools in the multi-ethnic region of Stavropol.

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Some schools in Russia's North Caucasus region are forbidding girls from attending classes while wearing hijab, according to Russian reports. Pictured here, a Syrian refugee girl wearing hijab at a camp near the Syrian border, on July 17, 2012. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia's Supreme Court upheld on Wednesday a ban on hijabs at schools in the multi-ethnic region of Stavropol.

"Taking into account the principles of the Russian Constitution and Russian legislation on the secular nature education, this resolution [to ban Islamic wear] is aimed at ensuring students of educational institutions adhere to the same norms that are expected of business-style clothing," Vladimir Molchanov, a Stavropol official representing the region's governor, told journalists in Moscow.

Murad Musayev, the lawyer representing the Muslim families that filed the case, said he would appeal the decision.

More from GlobalPost: School in Russia's mostly Muslim North Caucasus bars 5 girls over hijab

"Our main argument is that no regional government has the right to restrict the constitutional rights of citizens, including freedom of religion. Legally, such restrictions can be introduced only by the federal legislature, and that's it," he said.

"We are not discussing whether it is right or wrong to ban head scarves at schools or introduce uniforms. Our arguments are free of ideology but they are concerned only with the law."

Freedom of religion was also found not to be tied to the right to wear religious clothing by the Court.

The hijab controversy began when a group of schoolgirls was barred from classes for two weeks because they insisted on wearing their head scarves to school. They then began attending a local religious school, but it was ruled that a religious school could not replace a secular one.

Stavropol Governor Valery Zerenkov introduced the school dress code last fall, which prohibited the wearing of any religious clothing or clothes with religious symbols. Casual clothes and clothes considered too revealing were also banned, as well as shoes with heels higher than seven centimeters.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/130710/russia-upholds-hijab-ban-at-stavropol-region-schools