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Bring back the burka, demand Syrian townsfolk after ban

Ahrar al-Sham issued a statement condemning the ban on the Islamic face veil [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 February, 2017

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The head of recently recaptured Syrian town's local administration has been arrested after he issued a controversial ban on women wearing the niqab.

The head of recently recaptured Syrian town's local administration has been arrested after he issued a controversial ban on women wearing the niqab.

Mohammad Habash of Jarabulus' local council was detained on Sunday by Free Syrian Army security forces despite a reversal of the ban, which led to street protests, local media outlets reported.

The Jarabulus Local Council decreed this week that female school teachers were forbidden from wearing niqabs and male teachers forbidden from wearing Arab-style head dresses for "security reasons".

The move sparked protests on Saturday in the town, which was recaptured from the Islamic State group [IS] last August by Turkish forces backed by pro-Ankara Syrian rebels.

Demonstrators held up signs, including one that said: "The hijab and niqab are Islamic rituals that are not to be tampered with."

Powerful Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham issued a statement condemning the ban on the Islamic face veil which only leaves the area around the eyes uncovered.

"We reject the council's decision, which is incompatible with the teachings of our religion and customs of our society," the statement read.

It also called on the local administration to dismiss Habash from his post and have the decision referred to town's district court.

In response to the backlash, the council rescinded the decree and apologised, saying the ban had been "misunderstood".

Turkish tanks and opposition fighters drove IS out of the key Syrian border town last year at the beginning of an operation dubbed "Euphrates Shield".

Thousands of Syrians have since crossed back to Jarabulus, with the Turkish authorities emphasising a degree of normality has now returned to the town.

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