Education “politicalized” in Syria’s Kurdish region: Students protest




ARA News

Kobane, Aleppo, Syria− Since the start of the anti-Assad uprising in Syria, March 2011, several private schools and educational institutes have been established by civil activists, to replace the governmental ones which were affected by the ongoing war conditions in the country.    

In Kobane, a Kurdish-populated city near the Turkish borders, nine educational institutes have been established by efforts of locals to guarantee the continuity of education in the area, attracting hundreds of students from different levels.  

However, a conflict emerged recently between the different founders of such projects in the area.  

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) −affiliated with the PKK− established the so-called Teachers Union of Western Kurdistan(TUWK), aiming to run all schools and educational foundations in the Kurdish region, north Syria. While the majority of schools are out of the control of the PYD-linked Teachers Union. 

The union issued a statement on Monday, calling on schools’ directors to either work under the umbrella of the TUWK or close the schools they recently founded.  

Consequently, dozens of students in the Kobane took to the street in a protest on the PYD-linked TUWK’s demand to close their schools. 

Under the banner of “we don’t want politics, we need education”, Kobane’s students condemned the union’s “attempt to politicalize civil life including education”.  

Khalil Idris, a Kurdish student in Kobane, told ARA News that the protesters roamed the city’s streets towards the Asayish (the security arm of the PYD) center in Kobane. 

“However, the Asayish members prevented them from reaching the center and arrested one of the students who was released hours later,” Idris said.  

The human rights activist and teacher Adnan Misko considered that the TUWK’s statement (decision) as a threat “to the future of hundreds of students”.

“They are trying to destroy what we hardly built amid the current war circumstances,” Misko told ARA News. “It is a desperate attempt to prevent our children from their basic right to education.” 

According to Misko, the TUWK’s “decision” is a result of some political disputes in the Kurdish region between the union’s funder (PYD) and all other political and civil organizations in the area. 

“Through its organizations, the PYD intends to monopolize power on different levels in the region, to control all means of every day life of civilians, including private politics-free education,” Misko added.  

Mustafa Bakir, former leader of the Kurdish Yekiti Party in Syria and teacher of French, told ARA News that the PYD’s purpose of taking such a decision (through its TUWK) is to force all Syrian Kurds “to submit to their policy, even against people’s will”.   

“It is merely a blundering decision that aims to merely impose the agenda of one political party on civilians’ lives. The PYD doe’s not allow people to get educated except the way its leadership prefers, which means to impose the party’s ideology in the area by al means, including schools,” Bakir argued.   

Mohammed Haji Murad, a primary school teacher, described the TUWK decision (clarified in the statement) as a “crime against the new generation and education” in the Kurdish region. 

“We have always fought against illiteracy and ignorance over decades under the persecution of the Assad regime,and now the PYD want to practice similar policies like that of the Baath Party, but again we will not give up and we will keep supporting any new school opened by civil organizations in the region,” Murad stated to ARA News

Miral Biro is a civil activist who supported the foundation of one of Kobane’s recently founded schools. He strongly condemned the TUWK statement and described it as a “threat” to those struggling to continue their education despite of the difficulties caused by the war conditions.   

“The civil society organizations are NGOs, and according to the international law these organizations cannot be affiliated to any political party. However, the TUWK’s links with the PYD led the union to threaten NGOs who established schools in the region, in an attempt to force us all to submit to their authority,” Biro told ARA News. “If such a ‘submission’ would occur, then those schools and institutes would no longer play their usual role of educating people. They will be merely politicalized.”  

Biro said that despite the absence of the pro-Assad security forces in Kobane, the PYD does not allow “public freedoms”.  

Anwar Muslim, member of the Kurdish Supreme Council (KSC) −coalition of several Kurdish parties basically dominated by the PYD− said in an interview with ARA News that the union’s decision is “aimed to improve the teaching process in public schools (handed over to the PYD by the Syrian regime)”. 

Muslim considered the Teachers Union of Western Kurdistan (TUWK) as a foundation that must be in charge with all educational issues in Syria’s Kurdish region, “exactly as a form of Kurdish ministry of education in Syria”.

“Today, we live in a very critical phase in Syria; our areas are being besieged by Islamists and our activists are being continuously detained. The directors of those educational institutes and schools want to worsen the situation by opposing the TUWK as an organization which actually aspires for a better educational programs in the Kurdish areas,” Muslim said. “They should have rather tried to cooperate with the TUWK than forcing students to protest against the union and its work. Such a behaviour only serves the enemies of the Kurdish people.”  


Reporting by: Baran Misko and Egid Ibrahim 

Source: ARA News

(Editing by: Adib Abdulmajid) 


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