An Islamist authority governing large parts of northwest Syria has been slammed after photos allegedly of a new school uniform design were posted online – almost identical to the 1990s outfits of the ‘Baath Vanguard’ – but have since been debunked by The New Arab’s Arabic service.
The self-styled Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), which is affiliated with extremist Islamist group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), has said it will make uniforms compulsory for all schoolchildren in areas it controls.
Images of the alleged uniform design, including two parts of an alleged advertisement from a clothing firm, were shared on social media this week. They resemble the outfit the ruling Syrian Baath Party effectively forced on primary school pupils of its youth wing.
Syrians say the military-style design fits with the authoritarian tendencies of HTS and its civilian authority, which, like the Assad regime, has crushed peaceful civil society and political activism in opposition areas.
“Isn’t it better for the Regime Salvation Government and [Abu Mohammed Al-Jolani] enemy of the revolution to secure a safe environment and schools for students and to solve the problem of school dropouts and work on finding solutions to child labour?” one pro-Syrian revolution activist asked on Twitter.
The HTS-aligned authority has issued a tender for uniforms but has not yet decided on a design for the outfits, an education source told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
It seems to contradict a recent report on the Al-Souria news website, which cited local sources as saying that a textile factory will produce and distribute the new school uniforms.
The SSG, which administers large parts of opposition territories in Idleb and Aleppo, set fees of $8 to $15 for the uniforms according to the age group, the education source told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The price of school uniforms will be a concern for Syrians living in HTS-held areas, which have been living in abject poverty due to the war, a lack of jobs and investment, and a regime blockade on Idleb.
Around 75 percent of people living in northwest Syria rely on UN aid.
One father-of-three from Idleb told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that he couldn’t afford to pay for uniforms for his children.
“If the school obliged students to wear a uniform and offers them a choice between buying it or leaving school, I will choose to withdraw my children from their schools because of the family’s financial circumstances,” he said.
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