Damascus: Syria has forbidden the country`s
students and teachers from wearing the niqab, the full Islamic
veil that reveals only a woman`s eyes, taking aim at a garment
many see as political.
The ban shows a rare point of agreement between Syria`s
secular, authoritarian government and the democracies of
Europe: Both view the niqab as a potentially destabilising
"We have given directives to all universities to ban
niqab-wearing women from registering" a government official in
Damascus told The Associated Press yesterday.
The order affects both public and private universities
and aims to protect Syria`s secular identity, said the
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was
not authorised to speak publicly about the issue.
Hundreds of primary school teachers who were wearing the
niqab at government-run schools were transferred last month to
administrative jobs, he added.
The ban, issued Sunday by the Education Ministry, does
not affect the hijab, or headscarf, which is far more common
in Syria than the niqab`s billowing black robes.
Syria is the latest in a string of nations from Europe to
the Middle East to weigh in on the veil, perhaps the most
visible symbol of conservative Islam. Veils have spread in
other secular-leaning Arab countries, such as Egypt, Jordan
and Lebanon, with Jordan`s government trying to discourage
them by playing up reports of robbers who wear veils as masks.
Turkey bans Muslim headscarves in universities, with many
saying attempts to allow them in schools amount to an attack
on modern Turkey`s secular laws.