US-Syrian woman sets up model school in northern Syria

In this March 13, 2017 photo, Syrian-American Rania Kisar, talks to The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey. Running a school in the Idlib province in northwest Syria, controlled by Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate, Kisar has become skilled in getting her way, either by negotiating with the militants or by pushing back against them. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)


ISTANBUL (AP) — A Syrian-American woman has set up a model school in an enclave in northern Syria that is controlled by the country’s al-Qaida affiliate.

Rania Kisar often negotiates, but she also fights to get her way.

She argued back when the al-Qaida militants sent in an inspector to warn her against playing music during the graduation ceremony at the higher education institute that she founded in Idlib province. Then on graduation day, she invited the group.

The ceremony started with a Quranic recital, then as the students filed out in front of an audience of relatives, local officials and representatives from the militant group, Kisar played “Pomp and Circumstance” — the anthem used at American graduations.

It was a calculated gamble: she was betting the militants would not make a scene.

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