The Islamic State terror group has released photos of students returning to school in a militant-held area of Iraq's oil-rich Kirkuk province in the country's northwest, in an apparent attempt to demonstrate the return to normalcy for people living under Sharia, the strict religious legal code, within the self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.
The photo series titled "Academic Year Under the Islamic Caliphate," released on an anonymous publishing platform and shared widely on radical Islamist internet forums, purport to show happy, ruddy-faced school kids bearing books, backpacks and the group's black flag, but there's one noticeable element missing in most of the pictures — girls.
All of the students depicted in the propaganda photos are young boys who will presumably be educated under the Sunni Islamist group's new educational regulations and requirements. The education of women has not been banned by the Islamic State, but girls attending schools in Iraq and Syria are reportedly being told to wear full black body and face coverings and are segregated from male students and teachers. It's harder to photograph smiling female students under these conditions.
According to Middle East monitors, the new curricula reforms include the cancellation of art, music, and philosophy classes, a banning of teachings on religious minorities, and a suppression of nationalistic sentiment and patriotism, with the scrubbing of designations like the Republic of Iraq and the Syrian Republic to be replaced with the Islamic State.
Instead, courses in Sharia, Islamic ideology, and Islamic history are taught in line with the group's religious theories and ideas. Since militants began seizing stretches of land across the country this summer, the Islamic State has also forcefully imposed their "ideological revolution" on other institutions in other areas they control in Iraq.
This June, the insurgents seized control of several areas in the province's southwest, including Hawija, Al Zab, Al Riyadh and Al Abbasi. Kirkuk city remains out of militant reach for now, with Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, backed by coalition airstrikes, repelling a major Islamic State offensive to take the city this week.
Earlier this month, the Islamic State posted a video describing the work of Sharia officers in Kirkuk province as they were apparently busy "promoting virtue and preventing vice," as they put it, in Al Riyadh Hisbah in the Hawijah district of Kirkuk province.