The first university has opened in the city of Kobani, which is located in northern Syria on the border with Turkey. Consisting of two colleges, the recently-opened facility will provide education to hundreds of students from the city and surrounding area.
The two colleges will be split between a Faculty of Elementary Science, consisting of physics, chemistry and maths departments, and a Faculty of Language and Literature, which will currently only teach Kurdish literature.
Kobani is administrated by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and forms part of the PYD-administered region called Rojava in northern Syria. The region emerged as a semi-autonomous area during the Syrian Conflict and was established and expanded as the fighting progressed. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the PYD, form the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which recently captured the city of Raqqa.
The university places strong emphasis on multilingualism and modern teaching methods, and the students who have enrolled are happy with the opportunity to study.
“I came to Kobanî University to study Kurdish literature,” said one student. “Today we are very proud that we have a university in our region, and we are coming to it and are very proud of it.”
Kobani, which is known in Arabic as Ein al-Arab, has had a tumultuous history during the Syrian Conflict. In September 2014, ISIS militants laid siege to the city, after gaining control of the wider province and large swaths of Syria, including the major cities of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour.
Thousands were displaced in the fighting, although ISIS never fully captured Kobani and were eventually pushed back from the city in January 2015. This signalled the first major push back against the group and the eventual formation of the SDF later that year in October.
While the establishment of Kobani’s first university is positive for the city and its people, the future for Kobani remains uncertain. Over the course of 2017, the city has been a focus for the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army, as well as the Turkish army itself. And in recent weeks, the rhetoric between the SDF and the Syrian Army has intensified and grown more hostile, signalling that the future of the Kurdish region remains extremely uncertain.