Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Syria dismisses 1200 teachers wearing the niqab

Hundreds of Syrian teachers wearing the face veil were dismissed from their schools as the Ministry of Education said they undermine the secularism of the state. Syrian Minister of Education Ali Saad said in a meeting with heads of Teachers Syndicate offices that the dismissal of 1,200 teachers who wear the face veil (niqab) was necessary, the Lebanese daily As-Safir reported Tuesday. Saad justified his decision by arguing that the face veil is not in line with the secular policies followed by the state as far as education is concerned.

“Education in Syrian schools follows an objective, secular methodology and this is undermined by wearing the face veil.” He also pointed out that the face veil disrupts the teaching process as it hinders eye contact, which is extremely important for the relationship between teacher and student. 
The ministry’s decision affected teachers in various parts of Syria, especially the governorates Rif Dimashq in the south west and Aleppo in the north where teachers in nearly 300 schools in each were dismissed. The number dwindled remarkably in the capital Damascus, while some governorates were not affected at all like Quneitra in the south.
The dismissed teachers, half of which have contracts with the ministry, were transferred to the Ministry of Local Administration, especially in the municipalities. Several of the dismissed teachers submitted complaints which the minister promised will be thoroughly studies. “We will look into their complaints and all they won’t lose their rights,” he said.
The ministry’s decision was treated with enthusiasm by both the public and the intelligentsia. The feminist website Syrian Women Observatory said that the face veil is a sign of going back to the dark ages and constitutes a call for extremism and warned of its negative impact on students, especially children.
Syria is ruled by the Arab Socialist Baath Party, Syrian branch, since 1963. The Baath is thoroughly secular and as a conequence Syria's state institutions are secular as well.

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