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02/16/2022 Syria (International Christian Concern) – Fundamental Islamist groups are still highly active and present in Syria, as observed by the number of jihadist religious schools in Idlib and the Pentagon report observing the 2021 Quarter 3 activity of the Islamic State.

Idlib governorate is generally under the control of the “Salvation Government” led by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which was designated a terrorist organization in 2018 and an off-shoot of Al-Qaeda. Idlib’s public schools, plagued by a lack of funding and a poor economy, have paved the way for the increased number of religious schools. Dar al-Wahi al-Sharif is a prominent religious school associated with HTS and boasts 42 Quranic schools and six kindergartens. The Quranic schools offer tempting incentives to families, including no student fees, free transportation, and uniforms.

One researcher on radical Islamic groups explained, “HTS has followed a systematic plan through a series of steps to control the civil education sector in Idlib and turn it into an ideological, religious education according to the ideas it espouses.” The director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights also expressed concern about the indoctrination at young ages of fundamentalist theology and blind allegiance to HTS leaders. Idlib province hosts few Christians today as the opposition forces largely run the region and radical theology pushes religious minorities out. The continuation of education in this matter ensures that Christians are less likely to ever return home as a new generation of students is taught under fundamentalists.

The United States Pentagon quarterly report on Operation Inherent Resolve, the operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, was released just days after the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, though it detailed activity from months prior. At the end of 2021, the report observed that the group had little major fracturing occurring and that Islamic State was prioritizing the freedom of detained members, foreshadowing the attack on Syria’s al-Sinaa prison. Overall, the Islamic State “claimed fewer attacks in Iraq and Syria but remained entrenched in remote, rugged areas.”

Islamic groups of various kinds threaten the safety and stability of the war-torn country, namely preventing Christians from returning home and continuing to pressure those who remain to seek a life outside.

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