Kurds in Syria join protests calling for
Kurdistan,— Kurds in Syria's northeast [Eastern
Kurdistan] on Friday took to the streets for the
first time since pro-reform protests erupted in
mid-March, calling for the right to citizenship, an
"Several hundred people marched peacefully in the
streets of Qamishli and Amuda after Friday (Muslim)
prayers chanting 'we don't only want citizenship but
freedom as well,'" Kurdish rights activist Radif
Mustafa told AFP.
The protesters also chanted "God, Syria, Freedom."
There were similar protests in Hassake where up to
200 people emerging before security forces dispersed
them, he said.
Kurdish city of Qamishli and the adjoining town of
Amude are in
Kurds in Syria join protests in Qamishlo, Friday,
April 1, 2011, Syrian Kurdistan, calling for
citizenship. Photo: Facebook Ciwanen Serhildane.
Syrian Kurdistan 700
kilometres northeast of Damascus near the border
with Turkey [Turkey Kurdistan], while Hassake is
about 600 kilometres from the capital.
"It is the first time since the start of the dissent
that protests are being held in this majority
Kurdish region," Mustafa said.
Friday's rallies come a day after Syrian announced
it would look into the plight of some 300,000 Kurds
who have been denied Syrian nationality for close to
half a century.
"President Bashar al-Assad has ordered the creation
of a committee charged with resolving the problem of
the 1962 census in the governorate of Hassake,"
state-run news agency SANA reported on Thursday.
This committee "must complete its work before April
15 and President Assad will then issue an
appropriate decree to resolve this problem," SANA
The decision comes as part of a string of reforms
launched by Assad's government,www.ekurd.netwhich
is facing a rising wave of dissent demanding major
In 1962, 20% of Syria's ethnic Kurdish population
were deprived of Syrian citizenship following a
controversial census, according to human rights
The government at the time argued its decision was
based on a 1945 wave of illegal immigration of Kurds
from neighboring countries, including Turkey, to
Hassake, where they had "fraudulently" registered as
The citizenship problem has long poisoned relations
between the government and Syria's Kurds, who are
banned from employment in the public sector as they
are not citizens and yet cannot emigrate as they do
not have Syrian passports.
There were also protests Friday in the flashpoint
southern Syrian town of Daraa, which has emerged as
the centre of dissent since demonstrations first
broke out on March 15 in Damascus with protesters
calling for the release of political prisoners.
The "Friday of Martyrs" protests were expected
across Syria after weekly Muslim prayers for a third
week in succession, spurred by a the popular yet
anonymous Facebook group The Syrian Revolution 2011.
The group has called for rallies at all mosques
after Friday prayers until their demands for
"freedom" are met, demands which include the lifting
of emergency law in place since the Baath party
seized power in 1963.
Over 2 million Kurds live in Syria, mainly in the
north bordering Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan region.
They comprise nine percent of the population and
have long sought official recognition of the Kurdish
language and their culture.
Kurds in Syria often speak Kurdish in public,
unless all those present do not. Kurdish human
rights activists are mistreated and persecuted. No
political parties are allowed for any group, Kurdish
Suppression of ethnic identity of
Kurds in Syria include: various bans on the use of
the Kurdish language; refusal to register children
with Kurdish names; replacement of Kurdish place
names with new names in Arabic; prohibition of
businesses that do not have Arabic names; not
permitting Kurdish private schools; and the
prohibition of books and other materials written in
Kurds in Syria also suffer severe discrimination
because of their ethnicity. Many of them are denied
Syrian nationality and therefore do not receive the
full provision of education, employment, health care
and other rights enjoyed by Syrian nationals.
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