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:
It adds that teachers must:
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.
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.