Asayish arrest more teachers for using regime education plan in northern Syria

Local Kurdish-led Asayish forces secure streets during New Year's celebrations in northeastern Syria, Dec. 31, 2020 (Photo: Asayish Rojava)
Local Kurdish-led Asayish forces secure streets during New Year's celebrations in northeastern Syria, Dec. 31, 2020 (Photo: Asayish Rojava)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Tuesday reported that the local Kurdish-led security forces have arrested at least eight teachers in the town of Al-Muabbada (Girkê Legê) over the previous two days in the north Syria's Hasakah province for teaching from a curriculum approved by the government in Damascus.

On Sunday, Kurdish-led Internal Security Forces (ISF), commonly known as Asayish, also arrested four teachers from the border town of Amude for secretly teaching from the regime education plan.

According to the SOHR reported that four of the teachers are still being detained.

On Jan. 19, the Asayish arrested seven teachers for the same offense in the Kurdish-majority border town of Darbasiya. Eventually, the teachers were released after promising that they wouldn’t teach the material in question again.

The teachers had been giving the students private courses to prepare for upcoming exams in regime schools in both Qamishlo (Qamishli) and Hasakah.

Read More: Disputes, arrests over school curriculum in northeastern Syria

Mohammad Ibrahim, a local researcher focused on northeast Syria, told Kurdistan 24 previously that the issue of education has been a point of contention between Damascus and the local Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES), after it replaced the Syrian government curriculum with its own.

Read More: Syrian Kurds develop new school programs in Rojava

“This has raised many concerns about the recognition of the curriculum and the future of students in the region,” he explained. “In 2021, the Self Administration has completed its own education textbooks that cover all classes from elementary to secondary level, banning the GoS (Government of Syria) curriculum completely in areas under its control.”

Since the schools with the local curriculum are not yet recognized, and to improve future opportunities for their children, some locals still try to send their children to public schools under Syrian government control in both Hasakah and Qamishlo. 

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) in a Sunday statement condemned the arrest of the teachers, suggesting it was creating obstacles for ongoing intra-Kurdish dialogue, as well as spreading fear and panic among the population.

It called for the immediate release of the teachers and called on the SDF to take its “responsibility for the promises they made (for the Kurdish dialogue to continue).”

Although it’s a member of the Syrian opposition that opposes the regime in Damascus, the KNC seems to prefer the education system of the Syrian government over that of the local administration, calling it the “internationally recognized” education system.

On Jan. 20, the KNC said in a statement that the arrest of teachers “contradicted the preliminary understandings between the council and the SDF leadership to leave the choice to the students and the families for the study of the curriculum that they desire and facilitating the opening of special institutes and courses in the state curriculum until the agreement on a curriculum recognised by UNICEF.”

The PYD and the KNC, the two major factions among Syrian Kurdish parties, renewed negotiations in early November in efforts to stand together as a united front after Turkey’s cross-border offensive in northern Syria in October 2019.

These talks were temporarily suspended due to the absence of US officials and the US elections in November, but resumed the first week of February.

Rohat Salih Xelil, Co-chair of the Education and Learning Commission of the Jazeera Region of the self-administration, earlier told Kurdistan 24 via the Rojava Information Center that any form of private lessons must be registered with local authorities.

She said teachers who do not register are warned and if after three warnings they continue to teach the material, their names are given to a local court.

“As Education Commission, our only work is to warn them and ask them to get an authorization from the Autonomous Administration. What happens once we give their names to the court is not our prerogative anymore,” she concluded.

On Jan 24, Kurdish protestors gathered in front of the UNICEF office in Qamishlo demanding recognition of their education system.

The Co-chair of the Education Authority, Rajab Al-Musharraf, told the Hawar News Agency on Feb. 2 that the body would work on “establishing a unified curriculum with international standards in the Autonomous Administration areas."

"We will form workshops of all educational specialties and experts for developing this curriculum, and we will seek its recognition by the United Nations and UNICEF."

This new curriculum is scheduled to be distributed to all schools in northeastern Syria in the 2021-2022 academic year.

Editing by John J. Catherine