Syrian Minister of Education [official website, in Arabic] Ghiath Barakat issued a directive [Syria News report, in Arabic] Sunday forbidding students and teachers at universities from wearing the niqab [JURIST news archive]. The ban applies to both public and private universities, but only affects full-face veils [AP report] and not hijab headscarves that are more commonly worn in the region. Students and parents reportedly requested the ban to promote equality in education. According to a government official, the ban seeks to protect the country's secular identity [Guardian report], as the niqab "contradicts university ethics" and academic traditions. Last month to promote state secularism, more than 1,200 Syrian government elementary school teachers wearing niqabs and burqas were transferred to administrative jobs where they would not come in contact with students.
Many international jurisdictions are currently debating legislation that would ban full-face scarves and the burqa. UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated Sunday that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning [JURIST report] the wearing of the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other face coverings in public. Last Tuesday the French National Assembly [official website, in French] voted [JURIST report] to give police the authority to require women wearing the veils to show their face, and, if they refuse, they could be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The proposed legislation would also make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555. Similar legislation is also being considered in Belgium, where, in April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full-face veils in public.