by Leticia Cox


Taliban means suppression of women. Taliban means degrading a woman’s qualities, place and role in society. Taliban means no education or work for women other than housework and childbearing. Taliban means deprivation of women’s fundamental human rights, living in fear and without dignity.


Most Afghans, including some Taliban, do not support excluding women and girls from the education system and are seriously concerned about the consequences for the whole nation.


After the Taliban’s announcement to ban female students from university, male university students walked out of their exam in protest against the Taliban’s decision, and several male professors resigned.


Muslim countries, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Qatar, have voiced their sorrow at the university ban and urged the Taliban authorities to withdraw their decision.


“There is no religious or cultural justification for it,” said 26-year-old Husna Jalal, a Political Sciences graduate from Kabul.


Jalal fled Afghanistan in August last year after the Taliban took over the city of Kabul. Jalal has been working for four years in Kabul after graduating from university, but like many working Afghan women predicted the strict Sharia would be implemented soon after the Taliban took over the country.


“It’s heartbreaking to see my sisters being violated of their fundamental human rights. I saw them marching in the streets crying out for freedom and equality, and how Taliban security forces used violence to break up the group and stop them from practising their freedom of speech”, said Jalal. “People worldwide need to raise their voices for my sisters; the Taliban have taken all our hopes.”


The Taliban, known as the Talib, who sought to end warlordism in Afghanistan through stricter adherence to Sharia since 1996, took control of Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by force in 2021.


For decades, the role of Sharia has become an increasingly contested topic worldwide. The International European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR) ruled in several cases that Sharia is “conflicting with the fundamental principles of democracy”. Some traditional practices comprise severe human rights violations, especially on women and their freedom of education.


When the Taliban came, they abolished the Ministry of Women. Women were gradually withdrawn from television screens. Tens of thousands of women were unemployed in different branches. They were forbidden to go anywhere exceeding 72 km without a mahram. Women are being pulled out of social life. The health services offered to them are limited, their employment opportunities are limited, and their right to education has been taken away.


Taliban’s recent announcement to immediately suspend until further notice women from universities across the country is a blatant violation of their human equal rights consecrated in multiple international treaties worldwide.


“The first commandment of Islam is “read”. Islam urges both men and women to seek knowledge. While the Qur’an addresses human beings, it advises men and women to gain knowledge, find the truth, reveal and develop their own potential, and become perfect human beings,” said PhD holder from Islamic Theology, Dr Ali Unsal in a recent interview for Broken Chalk.


Dr Ali Unsal is an experienced writer, researcher, teacher, and preacher with a strong background in Islamic Theology and Islamic Jurisprudence. Dr Unsal earned his PhD in Islamic Theology and Master and Bachelor of Divinity from top divinity schools in Turkey. He has lived in the US for several years, where he enhanced his academic and professional studies and experience by engaging with both Muslim and non-Muslim Americans via seminars, workshops, counselling, local community services and academic writing. He headed the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies (IITS) in Fairfax, VA.


Dr Unsal organizes panels, seminars and discussions with academicians from different countries, and he is fluent in English, Turkish, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia and Tatar.


According to Dr unsal, Hz. Muhammad encouraged the education and upbringing of girls, who were especially despised and undervalued throughout history. “For example, in one of his Hadiths, “Whoever raises and disciplines two girls until they reach adulthood, we will be together with that person on the Day of Judgment,” explains Dr Unsal.


“When women came to him and said that he constantly taught men in the mosque and conveyed the message of Allah, but that women were deprived of this, he gave them a special time and gave them a kind of education.


Hz. Aisha, the wife of Muhammad, became one of the most prominent scholars of her society with what she learned from her. Everyone would come and learn from him what he was missing. In the history of Islam, women occupied a significant place in scientific and cultural life. Continuing education in an unofficial structure in the Islamic world and being attached to the teacher rather than to the school made it easier for women to receive education from scholars in their close circles. Among the masters of Tâceddin es-Subki, one of the great Islamic scholars, who listened and learned hadiths, 19 women are mentioned. Suyûtî learned hadith from 33, İbn-i Hacer 53 and İbn-i Asâkir 80 women,” said Dr Unsal.



On August 24th last year, the foreign ministers of the G-7 group of states – an intergovernmental political forum- urged the Taliban to retract the bans on women’s education, warning that “gender persecution may amount to a crime against humanity that will be prosecuted.”


Several media sources reported Taliban forces outside Kabul universities since the ban, stopping women from entering the buildings while allowing men to go in and finish their work.


The Minister of Higher Education, Nida Mohammad Nadim, a former provincial governor, police chief and military commander stands firmly against women’s education, saying it is against Islamic and Afghan values.


“In my opinion, it has nothing to do with Islam,” said Dr Unsal. “Because it totally goes against Pashtun traditions. In that tradition, a woman should only stay at home, cook her food, give birth to a child, and not go out unless necessary. This has nothing to do with Islam. Because the Prophet’s wife, Hatice, was a big businesswoman. Women were present in all areas of social life. In the market, in the mosque. Hz. Ömer appointed a woman named Şifa as an inspector to supervise the bazaar.”


Minister Nadim also told the media that the ban was necessary for several reasons:  to prevent the mixing of genders in universities, that women did not comply with the dress code, that female students went to other provinces and lived without their families, and because the study of specific subjects and courses being taught violated the principles of Islam. These reasons do not seem convincing to the world’s public opinion.


Why does the Taliban restrict women’s education? Islam Doesn’t Deny Women Education, So Why Does the Taliban?


“In my opinion, there could be two reasons.,” explains Dr Unsal. “First, there is no state experience. They cannot read the dynamics of society correctly. They still have a tribal mentality. This makes them do very wrong things. They cannot embrace all segments of society.

The second is a kind of shift of perspective or a kind of ignorance. They interpret Islam in line with their own tribal culture. Unfortunately, this is both contrary to the universality of Islam and far from responding to the needs of modern times. Therefore, they act with a radical and marginal interpretation.”


Across the country, the Taliban have banned girls from school beyond the sixth grade, blocked women from their jobs and ordered them to wear a burqa or head-to-toe clothing in public. Women have also been banned from parks and gyms.


“Many young girls are traumatized when held. Some families in the news say that their daughter is constantly crying and cannot be comforted. Young people and families are worried about their future,” said Dr Unsal.


“Our sisters, our men have the same rights; they will be able to benefit from their rights … of course, within the frameworks that we have,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.


Despite initial promises to a more moderate Sharia rule and to respect women’s rights, the Taliban have implemented their interpretation of Islamic law/Sharia since they took control in August 2021, and evidence continues to emerge that the Taliban are violating the rights of women.


So how can the international community help Afghanistan females?


“EU should stop funding the Taliban’s business. Children from Taliban families should be sent back to Afghanistan to study there, not abroad, said Jalal.


“International donors should identify and exert the leverage they have on the Taliban, whether it’s through diplomatic sanctions, economic sanctions, aid, political pressure, and other means. They should use it to press for concrete commitments on women’s rights that will be meaningful to women and girls and measurable through monitoring,” said Jalal.


According to Dr Unsal, sanctions from international donors might not work. The Taliban has a holding and rugged character. The correct thing would be that Muslim societies, such as the organization of the Islamic Conference or Organisation of Islamic Cooperation or the communities of Islamic scholars do something in collaboration with human rights organizations which will yield faster results.


“The Taliban are disturbed by the world’s criticism of their decisions for their society and the demand for their mistakes to be corrected. They say, “Don’t interfere in our internal affairs”.


Some international universities or organizations may offer training opportunities and provide free lectures, courses and diplomas.


Another thing is that some countries with which the Taliban, not from the Western world, but from the Islamic world, can cooperate can help ease this tension through their scholars,” suggested Dr Unsal.


“Women in Afghanistan are tired of talking and sharing their stories with the foreign press and organizations. They feel like no one is going to help or can’t help,” said Jalal.


Education is an internationally recognized human right essential to Afghanistan’s economic growth and stability. The Taliban are obliged under International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to respect women’s rights fully. Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2003.


The Taliban inherits Afghanistan’s obligations under that Convention, including “pursuing by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women.


Women now need a male guardian to travel more than 48 miles or to undertake basic tasks such as entering government buildings, seeing a doctor or taking a taxi. They are banned from nearly all jobs except medical professions and, until Wednesday, teaching. Women also can no longer visit public parks.


Taliban’s ban on women and girls from education has permanently sentenced Afghan females to a darker future without opportunities.


“Half of society consists of men, and the other half is women. Therefore, girls have the same right to education as boys. There are vital roles that women can play in all areas of life. In some areas, they can do better jobs than men. This decision of the Ministry of National Education of Afghanistan is both a violation of human rights and a misfortune for Afghanistan,” said Dr Unsal.





*The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. The UDHR is widely recognized as having inspired, and paved the way for, the adoption of more than seventy human rights treaties, applied today on a permanent basis at global and regional levels (all containing references to it in their preambles). 


















Melek Cetinkaya: Der Kampf einer Mutter für Gerechtigkeit

Ms. Melek Cetinkaya ist der Mutter von Taha Furkan Cetinkaya, ein Militärstudent. Sie glaubt an die Unschuld ihres Sohnes und versucht, durch Social Media ihn zu unterstützen, damit der inhaftierte Sohn freigelassen wird. Ms. Cetinkaya hat für drei Jahre ihre Kinder groß erzogen, bis sie schließlich beschloss, auf die Straße zu gehen, um mit friedlichen Demonstrationen gegen die Ungerechtigkeit der Regierung zu protestieren.  Nach der Türkische Zusammenfassung, steht das Recht, ohne Einschränkungen, Stein, Stock oder Waffe, friedlich zu handeln. Aber Ms. Cetinkaya wird jeder Protest 390 Turkish Liras (TK) bestraft, und zur Polizeistation gebracht und inhaftiert für einige Stunden. In einem Fall wurde sie zwei Tage lang in der Antiterrorabteilung (TEM) festgehalten. 

Melek Cetinkaya ist sehr bekannt für ihre Kampagne und Proteste um Aufmerksamkeit erhöhen für Ihre Sohn und andere rechtswidrige Festnahmen. Die Proteste sind die Folge der Ineffizienz im Türkischem Justizsystem. 

Taha Cetinkaya war ein Militärstudent an die Türkische Luftwaffenakademie. Nach einiger Zeit zuhause in dem Sommer, wurde er am 10. Juli, 2016, eingeladen zum jährlichen 3-wöchigen Militärlager Event. Diese Lager gehörten zu den Programmen, die ein Jahr im Voraus festgelegt und in den jährlichen Programmkalender der Militärstudenten aufgenommen wurden. Diese Dies war 5 Tagen vor der Militäraufstand in der Türkei. 

Morgens am 15. Juli, machte Luftwaffen-kommandant General Abidin Ünal einen ungeplanten Besuch der Lager. Normalerweise ist eine solche Visitation im Voraus geplant, aber er war unangekündigt aufgetaucht. Die Kadetten würden normalerweise den Campingplatz für formelle Besuche vorbereiten und Besucher erst treffen, wenn die Hausaufgaben erledigt sind.  Auf einer Fahrt wurden die Kadetten an einem Kontrollpunkt in Osmangazi angehalten. Die Kadetten mussten die Maut für die Überquerung zahlen, da die Kommandeure kein Geld hatten. In Sultanbevli hielten die Behörden den Bus an und informierten sie über einen Putsch, der die Kadetten schockierte. Das Publikum bot den Kadetten Wasser und Zigaretten an und sang die Nationalhymne.   Gegen 2 Uhr morgens erklärten zwei Polizisten: «Okay, wir haben diese Kinder, ihr könnt euch verteilen.» Die Kadetten taten, was ihnen gesagt wurde, und wiederholten, sie seien nicht in den Staatsstreich verwickelt. Später am Morgen verhaftete die Polizei die Kadetten und ließ sie bis 8 Uhr morgens auf der Brücke warten, anstatt die Kadetten zur Polizeistation oder zur Schule der Luftwaffe zu bringen. 


Morgens wurden die Kadetten von sämtlichen Personen mit Messern, Waffen und Stocken auf der Brücke angegriffen. Zuerst wurden die Fenster eingeschlagen, danach wurden die Kadetten angegriffen und bedroht mit dem Tod. Die Kadetten haben ihren Waffen versteckt außer Angst und wurden nicht getötet, aber wurden danach zur Polizeistation hergebracht in Sultanbeyli 4 Tage in Haft gehalten.

Die Bedingungen waren sehr schlecht. Die Kadetten wurden 5 Jahre eingesperrt, insgesamt 4 Tage in Polizeigewahrsam gefoltert. Ohne Nahrung und Wasser, sie wurden missbraucht, während sie auf die Toilette gingen. Die Räume der Einrichtung waren auf 120 gefüllt, als sie nur für 40 Häftlinge ausgelegt waren, was schwerwiegende Menschenrechtsverletzungen hervorhebt.  

Die Anklagen des Kadetten forderten drei lebenslängliche Haftstrafen für den Sturz der türkischen Verfassung. Die Behörden teilten die inhaftierten Kadetten in fünf Fälle auf, nämlich den “Fall Sultanbeyli”, den “Fall TRT/Digiturk,” den “Fall Orhanlı,” den “Bosporus-Brücke” und den “Fall Fatih Sultan Mehmet (FSM) Brücken.” Das Kassationsgericht hob den „TRT/Digiturk-Fall“ mit 37 Kadetten auf und eröffnete den Prozess wieder. Die Kadetten wurden jedoch nach dem Berufungsprozess zu lebenslanger Haft verurteilt. Das Gerichtsverfahren hat gezeigt, dass sich die Gerichte in der Türkei nicht an die Entscheidungen der übergeordneten Gerichte halten, sondern auf Anordnungen der Regierung handeln. Der «Sultanbeyli-Fall», in dem sich die Kinder von Frau Melek Çetinkaya befinden, wird derzeit vom Kassationsgericht geprüft und wird wahrscheinlich in den kommenden Monaten aufgehoben. Wie im «TRT/Digiturk-Fall» glaubt sie jedoch, dass die Gerichte dieser Entscheidung nicht folgen werden und die Inhaftierung der Kinder weitergehen wird. Sie hofft, sich zu irren und wünscht, dass alle Kinder freigelassen werden, aber die Praktiken der gegenwärtigen Regierung haben gezeigt, dass dies unwahrscheinlich ist. 

Frau Melek Çetinkaya beantragte im Namen ihres Sohnes bei der Arbeitsgruppe willkürliche Inhaftierungen des Menschenrechtsrates der Vereinten Nationen, seinen Fall zu prüfen und zu entscheiden. Das Dossier wurde tatsächlich geprüft und entschieden, was zur Empfehlung der sofortigen Freilassung von Taha Çetinkaya führte. Trotzdem erkennt das türkische Rechtssystem derzeit weder den Europäischen Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte noch irgendein Organ der Vereinten Nationen an. Die Entscheidung gilt als solche für den vorliegenden Fall als ungültig.

Es gibt etwa 341 inhaftierte Studentenkadetten. Drei von ihnen sind Frauen, und drei von ihnen sind verstorben. 

Murat Tekin und Ragıp Enes Katran wurden während des blutigen Aufstands am 15. Juli auf der Bosporusbrücke gelyncht. Sie wurden nach 12 Tagen zusammen im Leichenschauhaus gefunden und waren nicht wiederzuerkennen, Ihre Eltern erkannten die Kinder an ihren Fingernägeln. Die Familien bekamen weder ein Bestattungsfahrzeug noch Särge und Gebet. Außerdem wurden keine Beerdigungszeremonien abgehalten, und man sagte ihnen, sie sollten die Kinder schweigend begraben. Die Familien erhielten kein Begräbnisland für dieser Studenten. Dennoch hatten ihre jeweiligen Verwandten im Voraus einen Familienfriedhof gekauft, auf dem die Leichen begraben werden konnten. Der dritte Schüler, Yusuf Kurt, starb später. Er wurde für neun Monate eingesperrt und extreme Belastungen verschlimmerten die Krebsentstehung. Yusuf starb vor einem Jahr unter der Last der Schmerzen. 

Wie bereits erwähnt, werden drei Studentinnen aus den gleichen Gründen hinter Gittern festgehalten. Sie werden im geschlossenen Frauengefängnis Bakırköy festgehalten. Ihre Namen sind Nimet Ecem Gönüllü, Nagihan Yavuz und Sena Ogut Alan. Diese Mädchen waren 20 Jahre alt, als sie verhaftet wurden. Nagihan verlor ihren Vater am 1. März 2022, doch sie konnte nicht an der Beerdigung ihres Vaters teilnehmen. Nimet Ecem hingegen ist die Tochter eines Märtyrers. Ihr Vater starb als sie drei Jahre alt war, während er als Oberleutnant in der türkischen Luftwaffe (TAF) diente. Obwohl sie Tochter eines Märtyrers war, erhielt sie eine lebenslange Haftstrafe wegen der unbegründeten Anschuldigung, Mitglied einer terroristischen Organisation zu sein. Der Vater der anderen Häftlinge ist ein Offizier, der sich von der TAF zurückgezogen hat. Trotzdem wurde sie zu lebenslanger Haft verurteilt, weil sie eine „Verräterin“ und eine „Terroristin“ war. 

Melek Çetinkaya wurde zum Thema einer europäischen Dissertation. Helena Vodopija, Absolventin der Turkologie und Anthropologie, traf sich mit Çetinkaya für ihre Masterarbeit „über die Erinnerungen“ von Militärstudenten und deren Familien, die im Rahmen des Europäischen Masterprogramms Menschenrechte und Demokratisierung der Universität Luxemburg am 15. Juli und danach zu lebenslanger Haft verurteilt wurden. 

Melek Çetinkaya war eine Mutter von drei Kindern und lebte ein bescheidenes Leben in der Türkei. Am Abend des 15. Juli 2016 wurde sie Mutter, die Gerechtigkeit auf der Straße suchte. Sie wird ihren rechtmäßigen Kampf fortsetzen, bis es ihr gelingt, alle willkürlich inhaftierten Kadetten freizulassen.


Geschrieben von Berkan Doğan Ünes

Bearbeitet von Olga Ruiz Pilato 

Translated by P.Schamp [Melek Çetinkaya: A Mother’s Struggle For Justice]




[i] https://politurco.com/arrest-of-ms-melek-cetinkaya-is-an-intervention-to-democracy.html [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[ii] https://politurco.com/melek-cetinkaya-turkish-state-under-erdogan-regime-took-me-out-on-the-street.html [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] https://www.duvarenglish.com/human-rights/2020/01/25/my-son-is-not-a-coup-plotter-a-mothers-struggle-to-prove-her-cadet-sons-innocence [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[vi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND5snMwA2JQ [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] https://politurco.com/melek-cetinkaya-turkish-state-under-erdogan-regime-took-me-out-on-the-street.html [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[ix] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HB6cRgf15w [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[x] https://politurco.com/melek-cetinkaya-turkish-state-under-erdogan-regime-took-me-out-on-the-street.html [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[xi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tofQTvdJlqk&t=290s [Accessed on 03/04/2022]

[xii] https://ahvalnews.com/tr/melek-cetinkaya/melek-cetinkaya-avrupada-tez-konusu-oldu [Accessed on 03/04/2022]


*Crop image from: https://www.tr724.com/melek-cetinkayanin-ogluna-hucre-cezasi/

Universal Periodic Review of Montenegro

  • Montenegro’s roughly 620 thousand population has somewhat multicultural assets with approximately 20 to 30 thousand Roma people and a significant Egyptian and Askhaeli community. 
  • As the 2018 Civil Rights Defenders’ report highlights, there is a systematic discrimination against minority groups in Montenegro which affects all aspects of their lives. This is reflected in high unemployment rates, low enrolment rates in educational institutions, and poor living conditions. 
  • Roma and Egyptian children are disadvantaged in the education system, and their attendance rate and enrolment rates in educational institutions reflects this. For instance, only 190 Roma children were attending in preschool in 2017, although it is an improvement compared to the previous year where 103 was enrolled in preschool. 
  • The high primary school drop-out rate of 11% among Roma and Egyptian children further demonstrates the seriousness of the issue, as only 49% of Roma children enrol in secondary education.
  • According to the National Platform on Roma Integration Montenegro report in 2018, the country was recommended to work more on the inclusiveness of Roma people in education and to enhance their social and academic chances to achievement. 1860 Roma children were enrolled in primary school in 2018, while their number was only 1622 in 2017 which shows positive patterns in terms of enrolment. As for secondary school, their number reached 142 in 2018, which also shows improvements compared to the 112 students who were enrolled in 2017. However, only 27 Roma students studied at the university level in 2018.
  • It is also common, that children from lower socioeconomic background have difficulties in accessing education and are more likely to drop out of school. Socioeconomic status also often collides with ethnicity, meaning that many Roma and Egyptian children have difficulties in accessing educational facilities and institutions. They often cannot afford to buy the necessary equipment for school, neither can they pay for transportation, while children having to help parents to make ends meet is not uncommon either.
  • To increase the number of enrolled students and to reduce dropout rates, it is important to support families and communities coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Providing free transportation to school and mediators, especially for Roma and Egyptian children, can have a significantly positive impact on enrolment rates.
  • Broken Chalk welcomes the government’s efforts in taking measures to provide scholarships and mentoring programs to children from low socioeconomic background to enhance their enrolment rate in schools and universities. 
  • Child labour in Montenegro is also a serious issue. Children are frequently forced to beg on the streets or are subject to sexual exploitation and all forms of human trafficking. 
  • Montenegro has taken some steps to combat this issue, such as introducing a new labour law that regulates the working conditions of minors. The government has also increased the budget allocated for labour inspections to investigate the working conditions of minors. However, the research found that programs directed to stop children’s work on the streets like forced begging are not effective. The state did take some steps to deal with victims of trafficking, such as establishing an identification team for victims and an operational team that helps to tackle human trafficking. 
  • Despite all efforts, there is still a lot to improve, particularly regarding the legal system which would need special legal advisors who are equipped with the necessary skills to deal with human trafficking cases, especially when they involve minors.
  • Another crucial issue to address is corporal punishment against children in schools and in households in Montenegro. While laws and regulations prohibit such practices in all settings, it is still not entirely eliminated. To ensure the safety and rights of children, Montenegro adopted changes in schools, primary health care, and social services in this regard, especially after research showed that the suicide rates and drug abuse are higher among those who experienced physical abuse during their childhood.

By Noor Mousa


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Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain

Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain

The main issues in education in Bahrain include violations of freedom of expression, sexual abuse, social stigmas, access to educaiton and the quality of education. The Bahrain authorities practice sectarian discrimination against opponents, violating in turn the right to education of many people according to the Bahrain Center of Human Rights.


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Universal Periodic Review of Brazil

In the previous cycle, Brazil received 19 recommendations on improving its education which recommendations were all supported. Recommendations focused on improving socio-economic conditions and living standards, access to education and inclusive education for Afro-Brazilian, indigenous communities, and disabled people.


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Universal Periodic Review of United Kingdom

In the previous review in 2017, the United Kingdom received 227 recommendations, of which 96 were accepted. 24% of the recommendations focused on reducing inequalities. The biggest issue in the British education system is the class and wealth divide and the selectivity of the system based on socio-economic background.


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Educational Challenges in Syria

The Borgen Project: ‘The Education Crisis in Syria’ accessible in <https://borgenproject.org/education-crisis-in-syria/>

Syria’s educational system has faced challenges for a long time, but the situation improved before the war’s outbreak in 2011. In the decades that preceded the crisis, the educational sector in Syria was witnessing improvements concerning school and university enrolments. Nevertheless, the Syrian government was, at the time, taking initiatives and showing interest in fighting illiteracy as well as increasing the number of primary and preparatory schools throughout the country. 

Following the outbreak of the civil war, Syrian children of all ages were left without access to education. According to recent data published, there are more than 2.4 million Syrian children currently out of school.


Syrian children are currently facing several challenges that make it extremely difficult to attend their school or continue their education. The conflict has led to people’s displacement from their homes, poverty, and the inability of families to pay for school materials. In addition, the Syrian civil war has dangerously normalized and dramatically increased the issue of child labour. The stories shared by some of the affected children highlight the gravity of their situation. Issa, a 12-year-old boy, expressed his feeling of bitterness when he could not attend school for years after his family was displaced due to the war. Or Salim, a victim of displacement and child labour who was forced to seek refuge in Lebanon, where he currently works daily carrying potato bags. 

Albeit the employment of children under the age of 15 is illegal under Syrian legislation, no prominent governmental initiatives have been taken in the past few years to address this issue. However, UNICEF is taking steps to tackle the problem by adopting and implementing friendly policies designed to assist Syrian children in the enjoyment of their rights. 

A 2012 International Labour Organisation report recommended the Syrian national legislation to reform and impose further regulatory norms in the field of children’s work. The report also highlights how Syrian penalty laws are not severe enough to prevent employers from hiring children. Although the Syrian crisis slowed down the ILO’s work, in 2018, it adopted a ‘multi-sectoral approach’ to prevent child labour. This approach is meant to protect children’s rights to education and livelihood. It is also led and coordinated by several parties, including the Syrian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, as well as the United Nations. Perhaps this multi-sided tactic, including a governmental representative, will reduce the number of children who are working rather than attending school. 

Unfortunately, Syria’s educational system faces other challenges as well. One of these is the limited access to electricity. The electrical energy infrastructure in Syria was damaged severely after the crisis, leaving most cities in the country, such as Aleppo and Damascus, without electricity for most hours of the day. Most schools in Syria were affected, and students had to struggle in dark classrooms. However, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and UNICEF intervened in some places and saved the situation. For instance, in Aleppo, ECHO and UNICEF supplied 30 schools with solar panels, a successful step that positively changed the situation for students and teachers.

Nonetheless, implementing solar panels in all schools throughout the country is lengthy and costly. Since students of all age groups need electricity at home to prepare for exams, it would also fail to solve the issue in its entirety. The situation is undoubtedly precarious, but the government can take initiatives to assist students to study in more adequate conditions. Both the UN and ECHO could provide public city libraries with solar panels for electricity generation. This would allow students to learn in quiet and well-lit surroundings, thus contributing to their educational success. 

Another major challenge in Syria’s educational sector is the severe lack of fuel which directly affects students’ capabilities to access educational institutions. The Covid-19 pandemic, in addition, forced schools and universities to shut down for months, leading to the dropping out of a vast number of students. 

As mentioned above, UNICEF is taking several steps to improve these circumstances and combat the so-called ‘lost generation’. According to recently published data, UNICEF has not only been active in Syria throughout the past ten years but has also helped over 1.5 million children since 2016 by providing them with study materials and better chances for education. Furthermore, UNESCO has played an active role in Syria by launching several platforms to support Syrian children, psychologically as well as educationally. An example of this can be seen in the creation of “The Second Chance Program” by CapED, which assists the students who failed their final exams in retaking these during the summer, thereby providing them with a second opportunity to move onto the next grade. 

Overall, the situation in Syria is chaotic and complex, and governmental administrations fail to prioritise education. According to a report published by The Middle East Institute in 2022, the limited and short-term nature of the funding, insufficiency and inefficiency of data collection, and the delays in the embracement of new approaches are significant factors hampering Syria’s educational success. Education in Syria is in dire need of funding and rebuilding to improve students’ situations and guarantee their basic human rights. 


Written by Noor Mousa 

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato