Women have returned to attend driving classes in areas under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, after being prohibited from driving cars for years by security services.
Since HTS and several Islamic and jihadi factions captured Idlib city and countryside in 2015, they worked on confining the role of women and deprived them from many rights under the pretext of “adherence to morals and Sharia laws”. Since Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham changed its policy and started to deal with civilians more “gently”, in the hope that it would be removed from terrorism lists through polishing their image before the general opinion and international community, women gradually regained many of their rights.
In a testimony to SOHR, a woman known by her initials as R. S. said, “it was impossible for me to drive a car, due to the repressive measures imposed on women who have been deprived from basic rights, even personal and private right. However, I started touring several towns and areas in the northern countryside of Idlib with my car a few months ago. I also work for a humanitarian organization, but I have not been punished or arrested.”
“Several people in Idlib, especially people displaced from various areas across Syria to refugee camps, become astonished when they see me driving. Meanwhile, HTS members stationed at security checkpoints have never stopped me and treated me normally, but I could spot some annoyed members. Now, I do not pay attention to such behaviour, as I believe that women have the right to travel in their cars, as long as they do not breach morals. Ignoring the laws of sharia and Islam, which honours women, has been the major reason behind depriving women from their rights by extremists.”
With many women encouraged to drive their cars in several towns in Idlib countryside, some driving schools have opened in the region, providing driving classes to women only. These schools are the first of their kind since Idlib was captured by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham.
An activist known as M. A. told SOHR, “the role of women should not be confined only to driving, as they have to be supported and encouraged to be present in all kinds of businesses. Driving a car has become an urgent need to many women, especially those who lost their husbands and other displaced women with no breadwinners. Accordingly, women prefer to go in their cars to markets and work than asking for people’s help or waiting on the roads to take public buses or cars to their destination. The treatment of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham has become better in terms of allowing women to drive vehicles, at a time when the group is pretending that it does not oppose civility and civilization. However, many people, such as those adopting tribal traditions, still oppose this action.”
Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Syrian women have struggled with marginalization by opposition factions and jihadi groups which deprived themof most of their rights and repressed them. However, women have proved their successes in several fields.