Ever since the Islamic State (previously known as IS) took control of Raqqa, the city has become the sort of primitive enclave last seen in the Middle Ages – or, more accurately, the Stone Age.
IS are imposing arbitrary laws on the people of the city, claiming that the things we used to take for granted are not permissible in Islam. Anyone who opposes gets arrested. And, crucially, IS is now peddling its barbaric doctrine through the schools and universities, the lifeblood of Raqqa's culture.
Many secondary school students are forced to travel to the cities controlled by the Syrian regime, while schoolteachers are now obliged to undergo a week-long course in legitimacy; if they don't attend, they can't teach. Many core subjects are deemed incompatible with the law of God, such as philosophy, science, geography, history, even leisure subjects such as art and sports.
A raft of new subjects have been established by the regime, and the schools are ordered to introduce them via written communiques. I recently received one such communique from a teacher friend in Raqqa, dated 30 August.
It begins by saying:
The following subjects will be removed from the school curriculum permanently: musical art education, national education, social studies history, fine art education, sports, philosophical and social issue, Islamic religious education and Christian education. Compensatory subjects will be added from the directorate of the curriculum in the Islamic State .
It adds that teachers must:
Remove reference to the Syrian Arab Republic wherever found and replaced with the Islamic state .
Remove reference to the Ministry of Education and replace it with the Ministry of Education "of the organization".
Blur all images that do not agree with the Islamic law.
Delete the Syrian Arab anthem wherever it is found .
Not teach the concept of patriotism or nationalism, but of belonging to Islam and its people and the innocence of polytheism and its people, and that the Muslim countries are those that administer the law of God .
Delete examples of the Arabic language which are not inconsistent with law or policy of the Islamic State .
Replace the word home, homeland, Syria or national, wherever found, with an appropriate reference (Islamic state, a Muslim country, an Islamic state, the jurisdiction of Sham etc)
Delete any example in mathematics that refers the benefits of usury, democracy or election .
Delete from science everything to do with the theory of creation, and restore all creation to Almighty God.
Alert students that the laws of physics and chemistry are the laws of God in creation .
It concludes by saying that "this circular is binding" and reminds recipients that "of course, it is not permissible for male teachers to teach female students, or for female teachers teach male students."
Rewriting history - and geography, and physics, and chemistry...
In Raqqa the deletion of several teaching subjects is considered a particularly despicable action by Isis; the removal of history, philosophy, geography, chemistry and Arabic amounts to a complete distortion of the minds of the students, and will negatively affect the level of every pupil. The Syrian regime will not accept certificates issues by schools in Raqqa, so pupils have no way of progressing.
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I spoke to a 28-year-old teacher from Raqqa called Samar Mohammed [his name is a pseudonym] who told me that, when it comes to schools, the main aim of IS is to brainwash students with a bombardment of religious fanaticism, and push them towards extremism by forcing them to read books like Aljhad-Hadith-Sharia, which preaches a warped and vicious version of Islam.
The children are blitzed with religious fallacies and this, together with their natural curiosity towards IS's beheading of those it calls infidels, is very serious. The books and curriculum being pushed in schools could turn the entire population of Raqqa's schools into a new generation of extremists. IS will brainwash them one way or another, while we stand by, powerless to stop them.
IS is fighting to return Raqqa to the stone age – and, unless the international community does something, they will take thousands of children with them.
Zaid Al Fares is a photojournalist who moved from Raqqa, his home city, to Turkey following the Isis takeover. You can find him on Twitter here.