Idlib residents reject hardline Islamists demanding women dress in head-to-toe black


October 6, 2015

Dozens of men and several women demonstrated in Idlib city on Monday calling for the city’s female residents to adhere to stricter norms of religious modesty in dress, according to pictures and a video on social media, as residents ridiculed them.

Idlib city residents flung insults at those participating in the demonstrations, Saer al-Idlibi, a journalist in the provincial capital affiliated with the Victory Army told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“The city’s residents refuse ideas like this,” al-Idlibi said, adding that the townspeople had hurled insults at the demonstrators, “men and women alike.”

The demonstrations were held by Jund al-Aqsa, al-Idlibi said, adding that the women were the wives of the group’s members.

Flanked by fighters in military fatigues, nine women and girls wearing the khimar (a head-to-toe black covering) and carrying signs imploring their fellow women to “return to the hijab, sisters” walked behind dozens of male demonstrators wearing a mixture of civilian and military clothing in images and a video posted to pro-opposition social media on Monday.

“Where is God’s law? In women’s clothing,” signs carried by the women read on Monday.

As most of Idlib’s women already wear the hijab, or headscarf, the demonstrators seemed to call for adherence to stricter interpretations of religious dress.

“My whole life I have never seen a single woman in Idlib without the hijab,” Hazem Dakel, an activist originally from Idlib and now living in Sweden wrote alongside the images on Monday.

Jund al-Aqsa is one of the groups that fought with the Victory Army rebel coalition to capture Idlib city from regime forces this past March. Accusations of their involvement in the assassination of another group’s leader this past July as well as the alleged defection of 50 of its fighters to the Islamic State in August have put them at odds with other factions.

Al-Idlibi denied that Jabhat a-Nusra, one of the most prominent Islamist groups in Idlib province fighting with the Victory Army, had a hand in organizing Monday’s demonstration.

Jabhat a-Nusra  “does not recognize Jund al-Aqsa, and considers them Islamic State agents,” al-Idlibi said.

However, JAN has forcibly imposed the hijab in the past, a resident of the Druze-majority Jabal al-Summaq region in the northern Idlib countryside told Syria Direct in an interview this past March.

“JAN impose their strict interpretation of Islam upon us, forcing women to cover their faces [and] preventing men and women from mixing in public.”

– Photo courtesy of Syrian Liberation

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