No safe routes to schools: Sinai teachers intercepted by Islamic State loyalists

A teacher from Rafah, who was in a bus intercepted by Islamic State loyalists in Sinai last week, said the government has not provided access to any safe alternative routes to schools as promised.

The teacher, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, said state officials told teachers buses would take the International Road between Arish and Rafah as an alternative to the older route, on which they encountered Province of Sinai militants.

Teachers have said they will not work until the safe routes are provided.

Although local newspapers reported that the Education Ministry had decided to move teachers to schools in a safe area on the International Road, the teacher said the only changes they were informed of is the provision of safe routes to schools.

The Education Ministry gave the teachers a vacation after two incidents last week in which they were intercepted.

Last Sunday, Province of Sinai militants in a Hyundai stopped a bus traveling from North Sinai’s Arish to Rafah. They announced themselves as members of the “committee for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice,” and threatened the teachers with whipping and mutilation with acid if they did not agree to follow an “Islamic dress code” and travel accompanied by a male relative, a teacher who witnessed the incident told Mada Masr. A second incident of a similar nature occurred a few days later, on Wednesday.

There have been several attacks on the main road connecting Arish, Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah in the last few years, the last of which was an explosion in January. This has resulted in the road being frequently blocked, house raids and a number of arrests, as the conflict between armed militants and security forces has intensified in Arish in recent months.

Hundreds of Coptic families in Arish have been forcibly relocated over the past few days amid violence by Islamic militants and the killing of at least seven Coptic Christians in the last month.

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