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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