The decision by Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) to close universities across Idlib, northwestern Syria, has been met with vocal protests by students.
Students across the city of Idlib have been protesting the decision by the Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) affiliated-Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) to shut down private universities.
After clashes with the Syrian rebels in December of last year, the HTS was able to assert its control over the entirety of the northwestern province of Idlib and its surroundings and impose the SSG as an alternative to the local councils, which were operating throughout the region.
Soon after this was done, Syrians protested this move, expressing their anger at the HTS and SSG and claiming that both groups do not represent them.
In an attempt to silence these opposition voices, the SSG is now shutting down universities that do not associate themselves with the SSG.
“We noticed that the [SSG-affiliated] Higher Education Council in Idlib is trying to sabotage and confuse our students,” said Mazen al-Saud, the dean of the Medical College in the International Rescue University (IRU). “It has issued unjustified decisions and has imposed subordination on associations without consultation or agreement.”
Students of the IRU have protested this move, saying that this will render their time and effort spent in the university useless. “We students reject the decision completely because it is unfair to say that after a year and a half of studying we’ll have to go home because they’ve closed the university,” said Mohammed Shahood, a student in the medical college of IRU. “If [this decision is] implemented, it will be a disappointment for hundreds of students like me who were hoping to build a future.”
The IRU, which was founded by the Syrian Relief and Development Organisation in 2017, aimed to provide higher education opportunities to thousands of students who have been displaced throughout Syria. Located in the cities of Ma’arat al-Numan and Ariha, the IRU has over 150 disenfranchised students enrolled within its four colleges. According to the founders of the university 20 out of the 40 staff members of the university hold PhD degrees in their fields, with the rest holding Masters degrees.
However, the students and staff are now at risk of losing their careers due to the SSG’s decision to shut down the universities that aren’t caving to its rule.
With rising tensions between civilians and the HTS, and between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and HTS, a conflict in the region is imminent.
In the midst of these conflicts, Syrian students who hope to make a better for their country and themselves will be the biggest losers.