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 In Syrian Kurdistan, Kurds hold New Year demos

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In Syrian Kurdistan, Kurds hold New Year demos  21.3.2012  

Syrian Kurds rally against the Syrian regime. Photo: AFP
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March 21, 2012

QAMISHLI, Syrian Kurdistan,— Thousands of Syrian Kurds held demonstrations in Syria's Kurdish region in the north of the country [Western Kurdistan] on Wednesday to mark the Kurdish New Year, Newroz, as seen in videos posted online by anti-regime activists.

In the main northern city of Aleppo, demonstrators waving Kurdish flags shouted slogans such as "Azadi", meaning freedom in the Kurds' Kurmanji language, and "Our Syrian revolution is for justice, dignity and freedom."

"Get out!" they cried, addressing President Bashar al-Assad, while students vowed to drop out of school until the fall of the Syrian leader.

In the northeastern town of Qamishli, on the Turkish border, demonstrators carried portraits of Meshaal Tamo, a Syrian Kurdish opposition leader who was assassinated in October.

In the northeastern city of Hassaka, several protesters chanted anti-Assad slogans.

In Ras al-Ain, also on the Turkish border, the crowd carried Syrian revolutionary flags, the standard used from the country's independence from France until Assad's Baath party came to power in 1963.

Syria's Kurds represent around nine percent of Syria's 23-million-strong population. Most of them live in the north and in Damascus.

They repeatedly complain of discrimination and demand recognition for their Kurdish culture, their language and that they be treated like full-fledged citizens of Syria.

A dozen Kurdish political groups are banned by the authorities.

Over 2 million Kurds live in Syria, mainly in the north bordering Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan region. Syrian Kurds have long sought official recognition of the Kurdish language and their culture in Syria.

The Kurdish language is not allowed to be taught in schools. In 1962, 20% of Syria's ethnic Kurdish population were deprived of Syrian citizenship following a controversial census.

Freedom of expression remains tightly controlled in Syria, and security forces have sweeping powers of arrest and detention. Kurds in Syria often speak Kurdish in public, unless all those present do not.

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 Kurdish.

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