The Kurds in Syria: The Forgotten People

The Kurds in Syria have been subjected to discriminatory practices for decades.  The exclusive ethno-centric Arab nation-building project also officially called the Arab republic of Syria has denied other ethnic and cultural groups equal and law full existence.

The Census in 1962 deprived 100,000 thousands of Kurds to become citizens and they are now stateless. They are not allowed to own property, or to work within the state institutions, they have been denied education in their own culture, they do not qualify for state aid, and they cannot travel, as they have no documents.

The policies of the Syrian state against the Kurds affects their land rights. The state has given strips of land to Arabs in order to break up Kurdish geographical and cultural cohesion. The discriminatory law – Decree 49 – implemented on 10/09/2008 makes it a condition that in the Kurdish areas, a license must be obtained for building, renting, selling, and buying property, but licenses are not given to Kurds. This policy is forcing Kurds to move out of their area into the cities through poverty.

The Syrian state oppresses Kurdish culture and heritage; a systematic attack practiced daily attempting to undermine the use of the Kurdish language. Kurdish shopkeepers are threatened with closure if they use the Kurdish language on the shop frontage, Kurdish children are not allowed to have Kurdish names – and these names would not be registered.

Cultural rights are being abused. During Newroz, the Kurdish celebration of New Year, it is recorded that in 2008 and 2010, people were killed in the street while celebrating,

The Kurdish area has been affected by drought due to climate change. People are suffering, and although international aid is being given to the Syrian Government, there is as yet no evidence that this aid is reaching Kurdish families.  The UN rapporteur for food rights recently raised this issue with the Syrian authorities. People without citizenship are not entitled to food aid.

Political rights are being abused: There is no legal Kurdish political party in Syria.  They are all banned.

There has been a state of emergency since 1963, ostensibly to counter a threat from Israel; however, it is used to make arbitrary arrests and to imprison political activists indefinitely without trial.

Sentences given to political activists by the courts are disproportionate and this system is designed to create fear in those who wish to challenge the Government. The UN Committee on Torture has been highly critical of the Syrian Government for its use of torture on prisoners, and in particular on political prisoners.

The above is grateful to Kerim Yildiz, The Forgotten People (Pluto Press, October 2005) and to other sources.

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