Syria lifts niqab ban, shuts casino, in nod to Sunnis

BEIRUT Wed Apr 6, 2011 7:20pm IST

A visitor browses through books at a book fair near Damascus July 31, 2010. Syria lifted on Wednesday a ban on teachers wearing the full face veil and ordered the closure of a casino, moves aimed at placating conservative Muslims in the tightly-controlled country that has seen weeks of unrest. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri/Files

A visitor browses through books at a book fair near Damascus July 31, 2010. Syria lifted on Wednesday a ban on teachers wearing the full face veil and ordered the closure of a casino, moves aimed at placating conservative Muslims in the tightly-controlled country that has seen weeks of unrest.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri/Files

Related Topics

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria lifted on Wednesday a ban on teachers wearing the full face veil and ordered the closure of a casino, moves aimed at placating conservative Muslims in the tightly-controlled country that has seen weeks of unrest.

Last month pro-democracy protests erupted in the majority Sunni Muslim city of Deraa and later spread to other cities, including the religiously-mixed port city of Latakia, posing the greatest challenge to Assad's 11-year rule.

Thousands of people protested in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Friday, dissatisfied by gestures President Bashar al-Assad has made towards reform.

Wednesday's decisions are aimed at assuaging religious conservatives in the majority Sunni Muslim country, where the ruling hierarchy is of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Caretaker Education Minister Ali Saad said the ministry had decided to allow teachers wearing the niqab to return to work, according to state news agency SANA. Assad had imposed the ban on the niqab last year.

Syria's at-Tishreen newspaper also reported the closure of the country's only casino because "those who attended the casino were engaging in unlawful acts".

Assad's Baath Party, in power for 48 years, is secular, but the cornerstone of Damascus' foreign policy is its anti-Israeli alliance with Shi'ite Iran and Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas.

Assad's father, late President Hafez al-Assad had no tolerance for the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and in 1982 sent in special forces who crushed an armed rebellion by the group, killing thousands.

But the state has since allowed Islamists to exercise huge social influence and the number of veiled women has risen.

Syrian officials have tried to frame the protests, which have been demanding greater freedoms, as a "project to sow sectarian strife".

(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Canada Shooting

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Fighting Islamic State

Fighting Islamic State

Iraqi Kurds approve sending fighters to aid Syrian town.  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Official WHO Ebola toll near 5,000 with true number nearer 15,000.  Full Article 

Double Murder

Double Murder

Thailand tourist murder suspects retract confessions.  Full Article 

Abducted Girls

Abducted Girls

Nigeria talks with Boko Haram but no sign of girls' release.  Full Article 

Bodies In Locker

Bodies In Locker

Woman charged after 6 infant bodies found in Canadian locker.  Full Article 

Tunisia Polls

Tunisia Polls

Tunisia election tests transition from autocracy to democracy.  Full Article 

Pope's Agenda

Pope's Agenda

Pope Francis plays long game to reform Catholic Church.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage