Life in ISIS Territory: Education and Religion

This is part of a series called Life in ISIS Territory that we previously published a year ago. Through various interviews, we spoke to youth from Raqqa about what life is like. This is only one topic covered within the Life in ISIS Territory report. To learn more and to read the entire series, click here.



Education in ISIS Territory:

ISIS has been very unclear about education. According to B, “ISIS was confused about schools; at first, it opened them, then it closed them, then it closed them again, and now, it re-opened them”. This information, that at first we were a bit skeptical about, has been confirmed to us by some external informers that we have not interviewed officially yet. Also, according to A2, schools have been closed again, about three months ago. Some universities were closed and haven’t been opened yet, and probably never will be. Worth mentioning is the opening of a medicine school. The medicine school offers a 3-year education and is probably the only higher level education institute in Raqqa.  Most of the teachers are from Mosul, but until now, no students have been studying in this university. I think the motive of such move is mainly to give some superior grade education as incentive for the hundreds of students who escape to continue their education to stay instead.

Many bans have been imposed in the education system, as well as multiple changes. ISIS has removed some subjects completely. Those of which we are certain of are Philosophy, National Studies and Physics. They have stopped some books from being studied, and have gone as far as to ban some. Many of these books come from subjects such as History, Music, Painting and Chemistry. ISIS has replaced these subjects with the study of the Quran, Hadeeth or Shari’a, and have even given students books to study for these new “subjects”. Furthermore, all schools must be separated by gender. Not only students, but teachers as well, have to be separated. It also seems that there are substantial differences in the Sharia and Quran studies between different genders. They also forced every teacher to receive a Shari’a training.

Religion in ISIS Territory:

As said in previous parts, everyone is forced to pray five times a day and go to mosque. If not, they will receive a lashing. The Shia people were not spared and accused of being apostates. The only other religion that survived was the Christian one. Christians were spared, but have to pay the Jizya, a tax of historical origins, that at the beginning, apparently regarded only those who could afford it at first, but then it was imposed to all Christians. Many have escaped, but for some it is impossible, as it is very expensive. Despite being spared, it is clear that ISIS has imposed their religious beliefs on the Christians in Raqqa as Christian women also have to wear a veil. Furthermore, they are not accepting of the Christian religion, as ISIS has burned various Christian churches.

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