HTS-linked government gender segregates schools in northwest Syria
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) linked administration in opposition-held northwest Syria has imposed new "Sharia regulations" in schools across Idlib.
The policy, which was announced on Sunday, covers all private educational institutions across territory under the governance of the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) in Idlib province.
Included in the new restrictions are the removal of unauthorised drawings and images from school walls, "distancing from [fashion] trends that are different to our religion's teachings and our traditions", and the enforcement of "Sharia-complaint attire."
The SSG also ordered formal gender segregation for classes and a ban on mobile phones in classes.
It also banned "music and inappropriate performances" on online platforms linked to the institutions, both inside and outside the school premises.
Similar rules had previously been imposed on universities in Idlib.
The SSG and the hardline Islamist HTS militia have been facing backlash in Idlib province for being too lax when it comes to "gender mingling", Orwa Ajjoub, a senior analyst at the Center for Operational Analysis and Research, told The New Arab.
More conservative elements in Idlib have criticised the SSG for "ignoring gender mingling and allowing what they call 'feminist organisations' to operate in Idlib," Ajjoub said.
With the new restrictions, HTS was "aiming to send a message that fighting extremist groups such as IS [Islamic State] and AQ [al-Qaeda] doesn't mean abandoning its conservative public policy." he said.
"Many young people in Idlib view this circular as another attempt by HTS to suppress their freedom and impose a specific interpretation of Islam on society," Ajjoub added.
Since the beginning of the year, HTS has begun cracking down on opposition in Idlib and battling the remnants of IS.
Most recently, a group calling itself the Revolution Shield Brigade killed HTS commander Ibrahim Muhammad al-Ali. The group had previously called for the release of detainees held by the HTS.