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Self-Ruling Region in Syria Issues Women’s Rights Decree

BEIRUT — Officials in a predominantly Kurdish province of northeastern Syria have issued a women's rights decree, monitors said Sunday, in an apparent rebuke to the hard-line views of ISIS insurgents who have advanced in the region.

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which has declared a "caliphate" across large areas of Syria and Iraq it has captured, has issued rules on how women should dress and has curbed their movement outside the home, basing this on a radical interpretation of sharia (Islamic law), according to residents living in territory it holds.

The 30-point decree issued by the joint leaders of the "self-ruling democracy of Jazira province" aims to safeguard and strengthen women's rights in semi-autonomous areas, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Jazira refers to an area in the northeast province of Hasaka that has gained self-rule during Syria's civil war. One of the leaders of the area is Kurdish and the other Arab, according to Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory. Kurds hold about half of the province, while Islamic State has about 30 percent of Hasaka, mainly in its south and southeast, the Observatory says.

The decree called for "equality between men and women in all spheres of public and private life" and said women had the right to run for office and an equal right to work, pay and inheritance. It was not immediately clear whether the decree was legally binding or how it would be implemented.

In its English-language magazine last month, ISIS provided what it called religious justification for the enslavement of women and children as spoils of war. The al Qaeda offshoot has been accused by rights groups of kidnapping women and forcing them into marriage.

The rights decree said women should not be married below the age of 18, called for preventing polygamy and said women had an equal status in the eyes of the law. It said that men and women had an equal right to divorce and that so-called "honor killings" and other violence against women were illegal.

Parts of northern Syria have been experimenting with self-rule since last year, after Kurdish fighters seized territory in the chaos of Syria's civil war, a development giving increased autonomy to the long-repressed Kurdish minority in the country.

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— Reuters