Syria lifts niqab ban, shuts casino, in nod to protesting Sunnis
Syria has lifted 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”.