Middle East


Plight of Kurds in Syria

A Kurdish man demonstrates with 3,000 supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), in Syria on March 21, 2004. (Photo: Ramzi Haidar/AFP-Getty Images)

Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad has taken several positions during his career, only to take them back later. When Assad took power in the summer of 2000, Kurds hoped that he would be more modern and liberal than his authoritarian father. They hoped he would make changes in Syria's economic and political system and would recognize the benefit of an autonomous Kurdistan.

But such hopes have been dashed. The younger Assad is just as disinterested in helping the Kurds as his father was. He has made public promises to return land and citizenship to Kurds, who were stripped of their citizenship and their land - taken from them due to the Arabization laws in Syria. These promises have yet to come to light. Time and again, he has manufactured a pretext to stall the implementation of changes to the Kurdish issues. He uses excuses that change cannot occur overnight, yet changes occurred overnight in the constitution that allowed him to become president at such an early age.

Regrettably, Syria is stubbornly pursuing a military solution against the Kurds and has intensified repression, encouraged by an apparent international complacency. This will further aggravate tension and escalate violence in the region. A political solution, which satisfies the legitimate aspirations of the Kurdish people, can bring an end to the Kurdish conflict.

…Human rights violations still occur on a daily basis to the Kurdish population. These violations threaten the very livelihood of the Kurdish race. The Kurds living in Syria are not recognized as a minority, some not even as Syrian citizens. Their cultural and civil rights are withheld from them. The political parties and organizations of the Syrian Kurds are forbidden in Syria. In 1963 the Syrian Baath Party published a 12-point plan, aimed at wiping out the cultural identity of the Kurds. The plan provided for the establishment of the Arabization Policy that replaced the Kurdish population with Arabs loyal to and armed by the regime and forcibly resettled them on Kurdish land. Since 1967, the campaign of Arabization has replaced the Kurdish names of cities, streets, buildings… with Arab names, Kurdish publications are forbidden, Kurdish language media are not allowed and it banned the teaching of Kurdish in schools. Since 1992, children have not been able to be registered with Kurdish names. Whoever professes himself a Kurd in Syria, or demands cultural and political rights for Kurds, is persecuted, imprisoned and mistreated, including women and children who were jailed for speaking their minds. Today 225,000 Kurds in Syria are designated as "foreigners" and 25,000 are categorized as "unregistered."

The terrible situation that the Kurds are in and the hardships they suffer are not only against international laws but contrary to the principles of the Human Rights Declaration.

This initiative is timely and in the interest of peace in our region. We therefore, ask the U.S. Congress and Senate to pass a resolution to stop Syria from implementing the following policies:

- Stop the Arabization policy of Kurdish regions within Syria.
- Stop mass arrests, torture, and killing of Kurds within Syria.
- Stop the promoting of hate between Arabs and Kurds.
- Stop the arrests of political, human rights, and reform activists in Syria.
- Stop all Human Rights violations against all minorities.

And to support the implementation of the following:

- The recognition of Kurdish identity and culture, specifically education in the Kurdish language, and human rights.
- To preserve language, education, media, and culture of the Kurdish people.
- Self-government should be exercised in accordance with human rights norms.
- The restitution of lands, territories and sites confiscated, occupied, used or damaged without the consent of the rightful owners.
- Allow the Kurds to establish and maintain the political, economic, legal, cultural and social institutions of their own choice.
- Make all Kurds Citizens of Syria and give them access to national as well as traditional health services.
- Within their territories, Kurdish peoples should be entitled to the fullest possible self-government.
- Positions in the central administration (particularly army, police, judiciary, and intelligence services) must be accessible to the Kurdish people without any discrimination. Attention should be paid to the recruitment of Kurdish people into these positions and eliminating systemic barriers against their employment.

For the reasons listed above we urge you to do all that you can to provide urgent aid to the Syrian Kurds, to put a stop to these human rights violations and to support our efforts of self-determination. We also urge the U.S. government to consider implementing an amendment to the U.S. Congressional punitive Law against Syria by adding the Kurdish issue. In these endeavors we look to the support and understanding of our friends.