Pregnancy, childbirth decrease women’s job opportunities in northeast Syria

Syrian students sit in a classroom as the new academic year begins at a school in Raqqa city, northern Syria - September 21, 2022 (AFP/Delil Souleiman)

Syrian students sit in a classroom as the new academic year begins at a school in Raqqa city, northern Syria - September 21, 2022 (AFP/Delil Souleiman)


Female teachers in several schools located within the areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) face difficulties in completing their work or obtaining their maternity leave rights.

Administrations of some schools in northeastern Syria request female candidates applying for teaching positions to undergo pregnancy tests and submit the results to the administration. The outcome is taken into consideration when deciding to accept or reject the teacher’s employment application.

Pregnancy test at the beginning of each academic year

Female teachers are required to undergo the pregnancy test at the beginning of each academic year to renew or reject their contracts, according to Rasha (33), an English language teacher in Raqqa.

If a teacher’s pregnancy is confirmed, her contract is not renewed. The administration justifies this by stating that pregnant teachers may require various leaves, in addition to maternity leave, which the school administrations have shortened, according to cases shared with Enab Baladi.

Unfair maternity leave

“It’s either motherhood or work,” this is how Hanaa was presented with the choice, as she told Enab Baladi. Hanaa is a science teacher in one of the schools in the countryside of Deir Ezzor, run by AANES.

The teacher informed the school administration of her pregnancy to secure a substitute teacher during her maternity leave, but the administration responded by rejecting Hanaa’s continuation of work, as women who are pregnant require rest and leaves, including maternity leave.

Enab Baladi spoke with a representative of the Teachers’ Union in Deir Ezzor, who requested not to be named as she was not authorized to speak to the media. The representative stated that some educational complexes ignore official decisions and refuse to grant the regular 90-day maternity leave to teachers upon giving birth.

The Executive Council affiliated with AANES in northeastern Syria issued a circular on November 19, following multiple complaints by teachers to executive councils in AANES and civic administrations, of which Enab Baladi obtained a copy.

The circular includes a reminder of the specific duration of maternity leave (90 days) in all entities and committees in executive councils, with legal accountability in case of violation.

Ongoing violations

Violations continue even after the issuance of the circular, except for some complexes. The duration of the leave granted to female teachers varies. It is common for 45 days to be granted for cesarean deliveries and 30 days for natural births, according to a representative of the Teachers’ Union in Deir Ezzor.

The representative added that some schools in Raqqa governorate issued an informal verbal decision to limit maternity leave to 15 days, which prompted complaints from teachers affected by the shortened leave. The Education Committee reconsidered and reinstated the leave duration to three months.

According to Syrian Labor Law No. 17 of 2010, the female worker is entitled to a fully paid maternity leave of 120 days for the first child, 90 days for the second, and 75 days for the third.

It is permissible to grant additional unpaid maternity leave of one month to those who wish, and the law does not include any provisions related to paternity leave.


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