The plight of the Syrian Kurds the
By Bashdar Ismaeel,
longtime contributing writer for ekurd.net
January 31, 2011
Repression, misfortune and suffering has been a
common feature of recent Kurdish history across the
Middle Eastern plains but often the plight of the
Syrian Kurds has been the most overlooked and
forgotten - quite literally in the case of thousands
of stateless Kurds.
While Kurds in both Iraq and Turkey may have had
more focus under the international spotlight, the
struggle and suffering of the Syrian Kurds goes on
unabated as we enter a new year.
The new found prominence and strategic standing of
the Kurds in Iraq is a major milestone in Kurdish
nationalism, with the gains less notable but
nevertheless significant in Turkey, where Kurds are
slowly enjoying greater cultural freedoms and more
Amidst a new passage for Kurds in the Middle East,
the Syrian Kurds have lagged behind without the same
rights and privileges enjoyed by their ethnic
brethren across the mountainous borders.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel, senior UK Editor.
spite of increasing pressure from human rights
groups and some Western powers in recent years,
progress in Syria has been lacking substance and a
sense of a genuine desire for reform. Only this
week, a report by Humans Rights Watch (HRW)
continued to highlight the lack of freedoms and
rights in Syria.
In a region hardly noteworthy for freedom and
political liberalism, the assessment by the HRW
belief that "Syria's authorities were among the
worse violators of human rights last year" spoke
In the last several years it is fair to say that
Kurds in Syria have found new leverage and
confidence in protesting against the government and
seeking greater reform. Many of these motions
including rallies, protests and activist movements
have been met with suppression by the Syrian
government, often via violent means and at the
expense of civilian lives.
In March of last year security forces opened fire to
disperse Kurdish Newroz celebrations in the northern
city of Raqqa, resulting in many wounded and dozens
of arrests. According to HRW, at least another 14
Kurdish political and cultural public gatherings
have been harshly repressed by the state since 2005.
Only this week, yet more political activists were
mercilessly killed. Two members of the People's
Confederation of Western Kurdistan (KCK) were killed
after been ambushed by Syrian security forces,
leading to protests and rising anger in Kurdish
Other cases of disappearances, torture and death of
activities have not been met with enquiries,
explanations or action by the government
The Syrian Kurds more than ever need international
assistance and pressure from the main ruling bodies
to entrench their campaign for recognition, cultural
rights and greater freedoms.
As such a great moral, national and political
responsibility falls on the Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) for diplomatic assistance of the
fellow Kurds in Syria and pushing for reconciliation
between the Syrian government and the
disenfranchised Kurdish minority.
The Kurdish movement should be based on the ideals
of international law, dialogue and peaceful
resolution, the minimum that any ethnic minority
deserves in this day and age.
The oppression and systematic coercion of the Syrian
Kurds is not new. They have become the ubiquitous
victims of Arab nationalist policies since the
granting of Syrian independence from France.
Much like Arabisation policies of the fellow
Baathist regime in Baghdad, Syrian created an Arab
cordon (Hizam Arabi) along the Turkish border,
resulting in 150,000 Kurds been forcibly deported
and losing their lands and livelihood.
Of the numerous injustices committed against the
Kurds, none requires greater attention than the
plight of the 300,000 stateless Kurds that many have
accustomed to been "buried alive" - living but
unable to live a life. As a result of a special
census carried out by Syrian authorities in the
densely Kurdish populated north-east in 1962,
thousands of Kurds were arbitrarily stripped of
their citizenship, leaving them without basic
rights, subject to systematic discrimination and in
Subsequently, most denationalized Kurds were
categorized as ajanibs (or "foreigners") with
identity documentation to confirm their lack of
nationality and furthermore denied access to
education, healthcare, judicial and political
systems and unable to obtain property, business or
even marry. Some further 75-100,000 Kurds,
compounded to an even worse status, were labelled as
Maktoumeen ("hidden" or "unregistered"), with no
identity documents, effectively no existence and
having almost no civil rights
In the year 2011, for a country to be able to
deprive thousands of its people of nationality and
citizenship and openly contravene international law
is remarkable. Many of the Western powers and
particularly the UN, whose existence is based on
upholding such fundamental rights, have not done
The 1962 census is itself a clear violation of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides
the right to a nationality, while Syria is a party
to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of
Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the
Prevention of Statelessness.
The Baath Party, headed by Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad, has ruled Syria since 1963 after seizing
power in a coup and enacting an emergency law which
50 years later is still in force. In this time,www.ekurd.netpolitical
opposition has been widely suppressed with the Arab
nationalist ideological framework becoming a
mystical cornerstone of the Syrian Republic.
Under the Arab nationalism banner, the Kurds have
always been deemed to pose the greatest danger to
the regime. After coming to power in 2000 and facing
an increasing international spotlight, al-Assad
softened the tone towards the Kurds and a number of
promises were subsequently made, however, in
practice no real steps have been taken.
In fact, as the government drags its heels in
implementing concrete steps towards expanding
cultural freedoms and resolving the issue of
stateless Kurds, the Kurds threaten to become a
long-term danger for the establishment.
The Kurds are growing in confidence and for a
country that was a long part of the Washington 'axis
of evil', it can no longer ignore such a fundamental
problem on its doorstep.
Syria does not need to look far to see how civil
unrest can spread like wildfire. From what started
as an almost trivial social disturbance, Tunisian
President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was dramatically
ousted after a 23 year grip on power, when a small
protest lead to country wide chaos. In similar vain,
growing protests in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak's
government threaten to snowball. Once the masses
have the confidence to take to the streets and
challenge the government, no amount of artillery or
firepower can withstand people power.
The EU, US and UN must back up their condemnation of
a lack of human rights with firm measures. Trade and
political relationships should not be promoted when
a government openly commits atrocities against its
own people and even refuses to grant rights and
At this critical juncture, it is important for the
historically fractured Syrian Kurdish opposition
parties to become united and seek regional and
international help on their quest for peaceful
resolution of their goals.
The KRG evidently require good relationships with
the Syrian government but the interests of the
Kurdistan Region should not be safeguarded and
prioritised, while fellow Kurds are been repressed.
Ironically, while the Syrian government has provided
decades of assistant to thousands of Palestinian and
more recently hundreds of Iraqi refugees, they have
continued to overlook stateless Kurds within their
The Syrian government needs to look no further than
Turkey. A government can not indefinitely ignore the
rights and voices of such a significant minority. If
not capped and addressed, the problems will only
exasperate and grow and bite the government
increasingly harder as the years ensue.
First Published On: Kurdish Globe
Other Primary Sources of Republication: eKurd.net,
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance
writer and analyst,
contributing writer for ekurd.net website.
Ismaeel whose primary focus and
expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern
current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to
promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the
diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in
Iraq and the Middle East.
Most recently he has produced work for the
Washington Examiner, Asian Times, The Epoch Times,
Asia News, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Kurdish Globe,
Hewler Post, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), KurdishMedia, PUK Online and OnlineOpinion.
He has achieved seminar recommended readings for Le
High University (Pennsylvania) and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. His work has been
republished extensively elsewhere on the Internet.
You may reach the author via email at:
, Bashdar's website
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