Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syria: Linguistic, Cultural Conflict in Areas of Influence | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Hundreds of pupils attend classes inside the Freedom School. Reuters

Beirut, Ankara, Damascus, London- A Cultural and linguistic conflict has emerged recently among competing forces in addition to the rapid military and economic conflict in various regions of Syria, which have become areas of regional and international influence.

In the areas that are controlled by the Syrian regime, the Russians have begun boosting their cultural presence alongside their direct military presence since the end of 2015.

They have obtained a license to teach Russian in public schools and to promote the cultural activities of the Russian Cultural Center, which inherited the Soviet Cultural Center in central Damascus.

This has constituted a competition for Iranians, who have been trying to spread the Persian culture and the Shiite ideology, focusing on the poor and the countryside, amid a decline in their civilian deployment after the Russian intervention.

However, Tehran’s attempts still exist amid the spread of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard-backed militias, whose members have exceeded 60,000, and official interest in the US and French schools has declined.

The opposition areas are culturally divided into different “schools”.

In northern Syria, the Kurds are in conflict with time. After being deprived of speaking their Kurdish language, they are now studying it in areas controlled by the “Syrian Democratic Forces” which are dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.

In the areas of the Euphrates Shield, which constitute about 2,000 square kilometers north of Aleppo and are controlled by the Free Syrian Army factions that are supported by Ankara, the Turkish language has spread in existing schools.

Ankara has also obliged refugees, around three million, to learn the Turkish language in Turkish camps, towns, and villages.

While the opposition areas in Damascus, southern Syria and Idlib maintained government curricula, some Islamic schools have been established by Islamic groups in addition to the progress of English learning, thanks to the presence of civil institutions and associations supported by Western countries.