Layla al-Jamili – Yalla/Mosul
After capturing the city of Mosul in June 2014, Daesh found itself in control of the city’s famous university. Reports from Mosul say that although the university has reopened, it is operating very much in line with the group’s ideology.
One of the group’s first actions was to change the university’s name from Mosul University to Khilafa[Caliphate] University. Other moves have seen a huge number of students and faculty members flee the university and the city. Women have been the worst affected.
“An increasing number of girls — about 60% — have quit studying because of the strict rules imposed on the female students,” said one of the university’s lecturers, who wished to remain nameless.
Preserving the university’s long standing academic reputation is far from the thoughts of the new administration. The Daesh authorities have closed the colleges of political science, law, fine art, media, sport, business and economy.
At the same time, a college of nursing has been opened to prepare students to go to the frontline to care for injured fighters, while Daesh’s religious police – the hisba – have imposed strict laws on its students.
Female students must wear a particularly concealing version of the niqab, one which completely covers their faces, including their eyes.
According to one lecturer in the humanities field, it is strict demands such as this that are behind the exodus of students from the school.
“This type of clothing negatively impacts the studying process,” says the lecturer. “And since the cloth is always black, it also has a negative psychological effect on the students.”
Maharani Aewab, a female student who spoke to Yalla using a pseudonym for security reasons, said that classes have been reduced to just three days per week and at least 40 of the students in her department have quit their studies.
“The university has become like a prison,” she says. “Only eight students remain in my class and most of the lecturers have also left.”
Daesh does still allow both male and female students to attend class but they enforce strict segregation between the sexes and no interaction is permitted. The rules are enforced by the hisba, who impose the group’s interpretation of Sharia’a law.
A lecturer in one of the university’s science schools tells the story of a male and female student who were forced to marry because the hisba caught the man giving the girl a notebook related to their studies. Their choice was stark: either marry immediately or be lashed.
Whipping is not the only punishment that the hisba mete out. Figures show that a total of 26 of the university’s lecturers have been killed by Daesh, while the fates of 12 others remain unknown.
The situation has made Aewab pessimistic – about continuing her studies if Daesh is not defeated, and about life in general.
“They have destroyed my future,” she says. “I wanted to study political science, but they have put me in agriculture department, a major I don’t like. My only hope for now is the city being liberated to have hope of the future.”