Radio Liberty reported yesterday that students and officials claim that authorities in Tajikistan have put pressure on hundreds of university students to enlist in the national army and even threatened them with expulsion if they refuse.

It reportedly comes as the military's spring call-up is under way in the country, where many young men try to avoid going into the army, which is notorious for widespread hazing and poor conditions for soldiers.

The Tajik government insists that students have joined the military on their own accord.  State TV frequently shows male students publicly announcing their "own decision to voluntarily" join the army and "serve" the nation.

TV ads show young men in crisp white shirts and black trousers registering for the army after each giving a brief speech in what seems to be a university town hall.

Education officials say summer exams have moved forward for the hundreds of students who are leaving for the one year of service.

In the southern city of Bokhtar, the capital of Khatlon province, 120 students have reportedly joined the military, local officials said on May 6.

But several students privately told RFE/RL they are being "forcibly" sent to the army. They said university administrations give each student a copy of a written request for army service and demand that they sign it.

RFE/RL reports that the Tajik human rights group Office of Civil Liberties says it has received numerous complaints from students at Khujand State University who claimed they were told to join the army or be expelled. "This is the work of certain representatives in law enforcement agencies and the regional military call-up center," said Dilrabo Samadova, the head of the group.

In most Tajik universities, students study for five years to get a diploma.  Authorities are said to be primarily targeting students from the fourth and fifth years who are expected to graduate soon.

The two-month-long effort seeking to enlist young men aged 18-27 for the one- or two-year compulsory military service takes place in Tajikistan twice a year, in the spring and in the autumn.

According to the Ministry of Defense, every year, some 15,000-16,000 young Tajik men are drafted into the country’s armed forces.

Young Tajiks can avoid or postpone military service if they are ill, studying at university, an only son, or if they have two children.

Meanwhile, the authorities reportedly sometimes still use military recruitment raids to fulfill conscription campaign.

A ‘hunt’ for persons of draft age, more commonly known as ‘raid’, which is sometimes used to catch young people, is a violation of the law.  The Tajik authorities do not admit the use of raids, but ordinary citizens and analysts repeatedly expressed concern about the forced recruitment of young people, and other illegal methods used in recruiting campaigns.  

RFE/RL notes that many conscript-age Tajiks leave the country during the call-up season to avoid enlistment.  They usually go to Russia as migrant laborers.

Soldiers and parents say widespread hazing -- or bullying of new conscripts by their peers -- is one of the major reasons many are fearful of military service.