Jihadist group in Idlib prevents married women from studying
Women in the province of Idlib, in northwestern Syria, are victims of daily violations of their rights by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls the province. Members of the group have been repeatedly accused of violations and restrictions against Idlib residents.
More recently, married women have been deprived of their right to education. On August 15, the Salvation Government Education Branch, the civilian branch of HTS, made a decision banning married female students from attending public schools and universities.
The move deprived dozens of married women of their basic rights to education and further education, as part of HTS’s systematic policy to tighten the noose on residents of Idlib province.
All attempts by Rawan al-Atrash, from the town of Binnish in rural Idlib, to gain admission to the school and fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher in the future have failed.
Atrash, 16, told Al-Monitor: “I am one of dozens of married students who have been deprived of education in Syria because of the decisions of the Salvation Government’s Education Directorate to prevent married students to continue their studies.
On a more personal note, she said her father forced her to drop out of school when she was in sixth grade because she was his eldest daughter and had to help her mother and learn sewing, cooking and housework for her. to marry.
When she was 14, her family forced her to marry her cousin. After two years of marriage and one child and another on the way, her husband agreed to her graduating from ninth grade. However, she was surprised by the Binnish school administration‘s refusal to admit her. She did not reveal the name of the school out of fear for her personal safety.
Soon after, her married friend Aisha told her that several married students had been rejected at the same school and the school principal had given them the same reason – that there were no places available.
Atrash said denying her the opportunity to complete her education affected her deeply, especially since the first rejection came from her family at a young age. Once she convinced her husband to allow her to continue her studies, since the school was nearby and all her married friends would be in the same class, she was rejected by the Department of Education.
In statements from 2019, Mahmoud al-Maarawi, the first Shariah judge in Damascus who heads the religious court that oversees personal status issues in Syria, said the percentage of minor marriage during the Syrian war rose to 13%, from 3% before the war. Most marriages were entered into according to customary contracts, according to Maarawi.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Raghad al-Jassem, a 19-year-old woman from Idlib, said she had been deprived of her right to education, which would have helped her become more independent and self-sufficient. .
She was unable to continue her studies after her husband was killed two years ago during battles with HTS in the Idlib countryside, as she was forced to drop out of school and take care of his family.
This year, she decided to go back to school. But although she is not technically married, but rather a widow, she is trying to hide her status from the Directorate of Education through her internal contacts to circumvent the recent decision, and be able to finish high school and fulfill her dreams of becoming a nurse.
Jassem called HTS’s recent decision unfair and arbitrary, adding that there is no article or clause preventing married women from accessing education in the Syrian Constitution, Syrian laws or even in Islam. .
For years, the education sector in Idlib and its countryside suffered great hardships which hampered thousands of education students.
On the other hand, a school headmistress in Maarrat Misrin, in northern Idlib, told Al-Monitor that the Salvation Government’s education directorate had recently asked her not to enroll married female students in management-affiliated public schools. .
The source, who declined to reveal his name and the name of the school, said the decision was not in writing but was mentioned to him verbally.
She said she would be held responsible if a married student enrolled in her school and she would be punished.
She noted that the decision applies to all schools in Idlib and its countryside that are affiliated with the Directorate of Education.
The headmistress of the school said she was also asked to tell married women seeking education that there were no places available.
The source said that she personally enforces this mandatory ruling, as she believes the most suitable place for a woman to be is her husband’s home and raising her children. She noted that a married woman would take the place of another student because she would have to suspend her studies during pregnancy and maternity for an extended period, which would deprive a single student of the place.
She said the way single and married college students think is totally different, especially when it comes to marital conversations at school. It might affect the thinking of other girls.
She concluded by saying that as a school principal she thinks the decision is correct and that every married woman should abide by it completely, along with her husband’s opinion.
An Idlib-based activist who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said banning married women from enrolling in public schools is arbitrary and unfair, amid a lack of justifications, to exception of HTS’s control of the region and its systematic repression against citizens and the education of women, married or single, but especially brides.
Women have greater responsibilities and burdens, and education can boost their self-confidence and enable them to interact with others and with society, she said, adding that depriving women of education negatively affects their lives, weakens their character and deprives them of economic independence.
HTS tries to completely control the education sector in Idlib and indoctrinate students with its ideas and beliefs by attracting them to its religious schools and offering them benefits.
In February, volunteer teachers in schools affiliated with the education directorates of Idlib and Hama closed schools until they paid their unpaid wages, in a general strike. Teachers in Idlib, who have been forced to work as volunteers after years of unpaid salaries, have protested in recent years against the deterioration of conditions schools in Idlib. But their demands continue to fall on deaf ears.