Syrian jihadist faction establishes ‘Women’s Preaching Group’ in Idlib

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Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is working to increase its affect on civil society in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, searching for to do away with the jihadist character of its administrative and government establishments.

As a part of these efforts, HTS is highlighting girls’s position in society by way of its Women’s Preaching Office, which regulates the work of feminine preachers and oversees their actions at mosques and within the streets in Idlib and its environs.

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The Women’s Preaching Office has lately elevated its actions. Through this assist, HTS is searching for to lift a brand new era of feminine preachers that may get its ideological message to each individual within the areas beneath its management. This exhibits that HTS is conscious of the position girls can play in increasing the group’s standard base and influencing society. 

“The office organizes cultural events and campaigns that target female youth and encourage them to become preachers,” Umm Hafs, an official at the Women’s Preaching Office, told Al-Monitor. “It also offers almost daily religious courses and preaching training for women. These activities cover most of the [displaced] camps.” 

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The workplace supplied 352 lectures in a single month, given by 120 feminine preachers in 74 mosques, whereas the variety of girls’s preaching boards reached 16. She added, “We also have an affiliated intermediate institute devoted for ladies solely, which is among the largest Sharia institutes in Idlib. This institute provides free schooling for 2 years.”

However, a girl from Idlib who refused to disclose her identification or job advised Al-Monitor, “HTS exploits the ignorance and lack of awareness of some Syrian women to ingrain its ideas in society. HTS’ work with female organizations brings back to mind Al-Qubaysiat organization,” which the Syrian regime used to teach women about the Quran in past years.

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She added, “HTS is working through these female organizations to spread its ideologies in society in a less radical manner, given the influence women can have on men and society.”

Abbas Sharifa, a researcher in jihadist teams on the Jusoor Center for Studies, advised Al-Monitor, “HTS now considers itself part of the local community, and it wants to move from the stage of managing the community to controlling it.”

It desires to make use of the Women’s Preaching Office to speak its concepts and affect households, Sharifa added, “however the work of the workplace is restricted to the tutorial course of and giving lectures and classes in mosques. So far, it has not been impactful on society.”  

“Over the past years, HTS has committed many violations against women in the areas under its control,” Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor. But HTS leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani has been recently seeking openness, with the aim to get HTS into the political process, entering the Syrian parliament and gaining Western recognition. “Some female preachers in the office no longer even wear the niqab, as it does not go with modern Syrian society,”  Abdul Ghany said. “However, this does not mean that HTS has become an advocate of women’s freedom, as violations against them persist.”

Abdul Ghany added, “HTS must grant women all their rights, such as freedom of work, movement and clothing, which fall under personal freedoms. The Women’s Patrols Office affiliated with HTS’ Al-Falah security apparatus has the authority to arrest those violating the Sharia. It also bans mixing of men and women in public places, men selling women’s clothing, and clothing stores that have mannequins displaying clothes. … So it seems HTS is only doing a media campaign.”

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