The lost generation of Deir e-Zor


November 11, 2014

November 11, 2014

The Islamic State (IS) has made the northeast province of Deir e-Zor one of its strongholds in Syria since gaining control of Deir e-Zor from the regime and Jabhat a-Nusra in July.

With its military hold firmly in place, the Islamic State is now looking to build a new generation in its image.

IS shut down most of the schools in Deir e-Zor earlier this month, forcing teachers to go through a month-long “training” to learn about sharia [Islamic law], reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday.

“We are appalled by reports that ISIL has shut down schools in territory it has seized in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor and will force teachers to endure its empty indoctrination and propaganda,” said US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Friday in response to the reports.

IS has already removed history, nationality, art and music from the curriculum, says a journalist based in Deir e- who goes by the pseudonym Abu al-Baraa a-Sharqi.

“[IS] has been talking about raising a new generation of people based on sharia,” the journalist, who works for the pro-opposition media campaign Deir e-Zor Under Fire, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali.

“We are afraid for the coming generation’s future.”

Q: What is happening in Deir e-Zor? What are you seeing and hearing?

There is a degradation in all facets of life. The situation is going from bad to worse; uncertain fate and ambiguity cloud everything. People are afraid and always expecting something [bad to happen].

Deire-Zor23 Children in Deir e-Zor face an uncertain future. Photo courtesy of @syriaalattakia.

Q: Why did IS close the schools in Deir e-Zor?

IS closed the schools because [the curriculum] didn’t match the rules of IS and sharia. They also closed all educational institutions that supervised the schooling and education. They confiscated everything in them.

Q: What is their motivation?

The reason IS closed the schools was because they said there was material in the curriculum that they considered inappropriate and against sharia. They said that this material will affect students and lead them away from sharia. IS demanded classes in history, nationalism, art and music be removed [from the curriculum].

The other reason IS closed the schools is because they claim it mixes the genders, whether between students or teachers.

Even now, we don’t understand the method of IS’s thinking. They have been talking about raising a new generation of people based on sharia. They want to establish their own state with their own laws and legislation. They are talking about new curricula. We don’t know what the long-term goal of closing the schools is.

They also consider each teacher or employee who is paid by the regime an infidel.

Q: Where did they close the schools? Did they close the schools in all the areas under their control?

Yes, schools were closed in most of the areas under their control, including al-Mayadin and its outskirts, and also in Al-Bokamel city and its outskirts.

The reason is that these areas did not ban the classes IS specified. They also didn’t ban gender mixture or impose sharia clothing [on women].

Q: What kind of training will the teachers have?

It will include classes about sharia, teaching the basic rules of Islam as they interpret them. As if we live in an infidel state and know nothing about Islam.

Q: What was the educational system like before IS?

Before IS, the education was a little better. The schools were in good condition and regime didn’t target them.

The educational system and the people who work in it tried to keep children well-connected to books and information. They tried to raise a good generation [of people] by saving their childhoods.  

Q: What do you expect for the coming generations if IS stays in control? What are the educational consequences?

We are afraid for the coming generation’s future. Therefore the city will be in danger. The Islamic State is trying to change the curriculum with a new one made by them. The most important materials for IS are Arabic language and Islamic sharia. This means excluding the science classes, which in turn will lead to an uneducated generation.

We demand the support of all humanitarian organizations, as an entire generation faces losing itself in an Islamic State extremist mentality.

Q: Are there other centers used by the IS to teach children?

There are short classes after the prayers in mosques. The focus of the classes is on jihad and the basics of Islam.

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