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Face veil banned in Syria universities

Decree aims at fighting extremism: official

An earlier dismissal of fully veiled school teachers in Syria is now followed by another ministerial decree that bans niqab in university campuses on the grounds of fighting extremism and promoting moderation.

Syrian Minister of Higher Education Ghiath Barakat issued a decree prohibiting female students wearing the face veil from entering university campuses, the on-line press agency Syria News reported Sunday.

The decision, the minister said, was issued based on the requests of several parents who demanded that their girls be educated in a place that is devoid of any aspects of extremism. Concerns about the face veil were especially voiced in private universities.

The increasing number of requests instigated presidents of universities to meet with the minister Wednesday and discuss the possibility of banning the niqab on campus, said a ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The minister declared his objection to the face veil which, he argued, is against academic principles and campus regulations," the official told Syria News.

The minister, the official added, stressed that the ministry cannot allow students to fall prey to extremist ideologies.

"The minister said that Syria has always been capable of warding off several attempts at implanting subversive thought in its society and has managed to conquer all those ideological invasions. He also called for raising awareness of these potential threats amongst youths."

Kolona Shorakaa (We are all Partners) website, supervised by member of the ruling Baath Party Ayman Abdul-Nour, dealt with a matter in quite a cynical manner and claimed that the niqab ban was imposed by the National Security Bureau affiliated to the party.

"Reliable sources have it the entire niqab issue, whether in schools or universities, has nothing to do with the requests of the parents," read the website. "Since when have the voice of people been heard?"

According to the website, it is not the ministers who issue such decrees, but the National Security Bureau which instructs ministers to implement this decree in the institutions affiliated to their ministries.

The Minister of Education dismissed in June around 1,200 school teachers wearing the face veil also on the grounds of fighting aspects of extremist behavior in society and promoting state secularism.

In his statement about the ban, Minister of Education Ali Saad announced that the decision would shortly be applied to other ministries.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid).

The minister declared his objection to the face veil which, he argued, is against academic principles and campus regulations

Ministry of Higher Education official