The Forgotten Kurds of Syria


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The discriminatory law “Decree 49,” which was implemented in 2008 by the Assad regime, requires the obtainment of a license for numerous things (building, renting, selling, and buying property) in the Kurdish areas, but the licenses are not given to Kurds. This policy is forcing Kurds to move out of their area into the cities.  The Syrian regime in Damascus has provided strips of land to Arabs while pushing Kurds out of their indigenous areas.  The Syrian government policy seeks to “break up Kurdish geographical and cultural cohesion.”

Ever since the 1963 Baathist takeover (The Baath Party was founded by Michel Aflaq as a secular nationalist and socialist party which relies on such catchphrases as “Arab unity,” “freedom from colonialism,” and “secularism”), a state-of-emergency has existed in Syria. While the ostensible reason for the state-of-emergency was to counter alleged threats from Israel, it has been used to make arbitrary arrests, imprison political activists indefinitely without trial, ban political parties, and divert all resources to the military while controlling economic activities.

A U.S. Institute for Peace report summarized the situation of the Kurds in Syria as follows:

Kurds in Syria have been denied basic social, cultural, and political rights, in many cases stemming from the Syrian state’s refusal to grant Kurds citizenship.  Kurdish political opposition in Syria is fractured. Though some join Kurds in other countries in calling for the emergence of a separate Kurdish state, many Kurds reject separatism and have generally been committed to peaceful democratic struggle.  Democratic reforms in Syria that improve the human rights situation for Kurds and non-Kurds could go a long way to alleviate the tension between the Kurds and the Syrian State.  The problems that Syrian Kurds face cannot be truly solved without an effort both to improve the human rights of Kurds throughout the region, and to foster their political inclusion in their state of residency.  The U.S. and the European Union should use any diplomatic tools at their disposal to promote appropriate reforms in Syria and in the region.

In a conversation with this writer, Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdistan National Assembly-Syria (Kurdnas), emphasized the following: “Kurdnas is committed to democracy, human rights, and religious freedom in Syria, and the granting to Kurds their equal rights as citizens.  We seek cultural and political autonomy in Syria, but we would prefer a federal state in Syria where Kurds and other religious and ethnic minorities would be able to govern themselves.”

Given the Obama administration’s obsession with the creation of a Palestinian State, it seems rather hypocritical that over 2 million Kurds in Syria and 40 million Kurds in the wider region have been forgotten by Washington.  And since the Arabs already have 22 repressive states, don’t the Kurds deserve at least one democratic state or an autonomous region within Syria?  At the very least, their case for self determination should carry as much weight as that of the Palestinians in Ramallah or Gaza.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    It's a tragedy that in the drawing of post-colonial boundaries, the Kurds were not given provision for their own state.

    In northern Iraq, the Kurdish quasi-state is the most democratic and progressive in the region, particularly as Turkey slides back into Islamism. Women in Iraqi Kurdistan are often employed as militia and in other traditionally male-dominated professions. But alas, all is relative. Iraqi Kurds may be more civilized than their Arab countrymen, but even in northern Iraq, the ugly vestiges of Islam persist, including honor killings and female genital mutilation.

    As for the Kurds of Syria, they are not even a blip on the radar of the global grievance industry. If only they had the Palestinians' PR machine.

  • tanstaafl

    We can hope that the Kurds will not suffer the same fate as the Armenians.

  • http://apcnational.wordpress.com/ Mike in VA

    I have a Turkish friend in Ankara whose family had to flee Kirkuk for their lives when the Kurds began massacring Iraqi Turkmen in July 1959. Not a pretty story.

  • Atilla the Hun

    During 21th century the artificial map of the middle east definably will change. Neither Turkey nor Syria will be able to suppress over 30 million people for long. Eventually the Northern Iraq will achieve independence and all USA efforts to keep Iraq in tact will go up in smoke. Once Iraq is broken up Then all hell will broke loose. And the winners will be Israel and the Kurds.

    • http://apcnational.wordpress.com/ Mike in VA

      Rest assured the Arabs and Turks will do everything in their power to keep the Iraqi Kurds from achieving independence.

      It is hard to imagine a stable Middle East without resolving the national aspirations of the Kurdish people. This problem isn't going to magically go away with time.

  • USMCSniper

    Most Muslim jihadists are motivated by the core principles of Islam with the goal of converting, killing, or subjugating all non-Muslims. Unfortunately, too many non-Muslims have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality and do not see the necessity of an offensive war in Iraq or Afghanistan, or of a defensive war at home. Non-Muslims are going to have to decide to fight for their cultures, freedoms, and values or they are going to lose them. Islam the Enemy

  • USMCSniper

    Most Muslim jihadists are motivated by the core principles of Islam with the goal of converting, killing, or subjugating all non-Muslims. Unfortunately, too many non-Muslims have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality and do not see the necessity of an offensive war in Iraq or Afghanistan, or of a defensive war at home. Non-Muslims are going to have to decide to fight for their cultures, freedoms, and values or they are going to lose them. Islam is the Enemy.

  • guest

    They did indeed. But could you not include the entire Kurdish population. Only Hamidiye Cavalry participated in the Genocide, and that cannot incriminate all the Kurds. Plus, they were following orders. It was not like the Kurds had a systematic plan to annihilate Armenians.

  • ciccio

    The West can never defeat militant Islam, at the least sign of attack they all join ranks whatever their individual differences. Only Islam can do that and the Kurds are the wedge that could split that solidarity apart. For 100's of years the Kurds were considered heathen by most Muslim, they have been persecuted in their own lands which are no longer theirs, it has been swallowed up by Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. Since the fall of the Ottoman empire the Kurds have become more Muslim only because of their desperate attempts to fit in, they don't, nobody wants them to fit so let the West give them all the covert and overt help they can. The veneer of Islam is very thin, help them rip it off, the countries in the region will be far to busy to bother about the West if they have an infidel in their midst

  • sam000

    The kurds in IRAK and Syria are living in tribals, the khan at the head decides for at least 2000 heads;
    the individual kurds are the very poor and brave and honnest people, they are forced to live in tribals because alone they don't have any protection for their famillies.

  • dario

    if you were right! armenians wouldnot have asked Turkey for appology!

  • dario

    sooner or later Kurdistan will become an independant state..let the enemies of Kurds, die in agony. like Iraq, one day syria will have trouble with israel, and will see how Kurds will teach syrians a lesson by siding with israel.

  • dario

    As a Kurd I can say that most Kurds do not practice islam and want to get rid of the backwarded culture that arab brought to us through islam.

  • dario

    Mike in VA those Kurds who killed the turkmen were not revolutionary Kurds fighting for kurdistan but were mecinaries of sadam and killed both Kurds and turkmen. so donot blame Kurds fot their action.

  • Kawa

    I have realised in this article that Kurdistan name has NOT mention.
    instead saying Western Kurdistan, u r saying syria. same with other 3 parts.

    I feel kurdish people from Kurdistan is described as kurdish people living in Africa.
    Moreover, we should know that Kurds are living on their on mother land, is not syrian land. The history of syria is less than 70 years whereas kurdistan History go back to Noh period.

  • Modernity

    The kurds in Syria are moderates and secular. They have suffered under the Arab-islam ideology. furthermore the Kurds in Syria are sympathized with Israel which makes the regime even more agressive towards the Kurds.

  • http://rojava.your-board.com Koger

    We do not expact from arab and turks which never have known some thing named freedom respect our rights but we kn0w they must changed with the new map of nations . The freedom which came from usa .israel and europe .and people which suffer dream by it like kurdish and armin will change arab and turks .

  • AHMED

    \It i\s about time for the West, Russia, China, and Israel to stop supporting or looking the other waysss