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 Post-Assad Syria Needs Recognition of Diversity in a New Political System

  Opinion — Analysis
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Post-Assad Syria Needs Recognition of Diversity in a New Political System  9.8.2012 
Shakhawan Shorsh
Special to


August 9, 2012

While the internal war between the Syrian regime and the oppositional Free Syrian Army is ongoing and the end of the al-Assad family's power seems to be approaching, differences of opinion and purpose remain among the Syrian opposition political parties regarding the post-Assad political solution and system. Especially, the main part of the political parties that control the Kurdish territory (Northern Syria) look at the Arab leaders with doubt and worry regarding the subject of future Kurdish political and cultural rights.

The Kurds have their reasons to have such a suspicious view and judgment and for being cautious toward the real intentions of the Arab majority's political leaders. The Kurds in Syria have been cruelly oppressed since the Baath regime took power in the 1960s. The Baath regime regarded the Kurds as foreigners in their own homeland, and denied the Kurds any rights as citizens of Syria, but rather tried to assimilate them into Arab society under a policy of Arabization.

Since the current uprising against the regime began, the Arab political parties such as the Islamists and the nationalists have not yet put forward any kind of acceptance policy toward the Kurdish rights; in effect, they dostill not give any clear written promises regarding Kurdish rights. The other ethnic minority groups such as Christians, Assyrians, Alawites, Shias and Druzehave met the same cold attitude of denial. Thus, they too are worried about their political future and destiny.

Turkey is an active and influential political player in the region and will have an influence on the post-Assad political system in Syria; thus, it is not likely that Turkey will make the same mistake it did in relation to Iraq (Turkey refused to allow western troops to use Turkish territory and did not participate in the invasion of Iraq, thus Turkey was without significant influence concerning the rebuilding decisions). However, the active involvement of Turkey is alarming for the Kurds as Turkey does not support minority rights and especially Kurdish autonomy in Syria. Turkey does not want a strong Kurdish society enjoying their minority rights similar to those of Iraqi Kurds. Turkey has influenced the draft of the political solution for a post-Assad Syria that was made in Istanbul. The draft does not mention Kurdish rights and there are no clear concessions for minority rights. The Cairo conference showed a similar attitude toward the Kurds. The Kurdish leaders walked out of the conference room as a protest against the denial of any mention of Kurdish rights.

Turkey is anxious about the Kurdish control over the Kurdish cities in northern Syria, and threatens military intervention as they regard the situation as unacceptable. Clearly, any Turkish intervention would worsen the situation and harm the prospects for future peace and stability in Syria. Turkish intervention can lead to a long internal war, widening the cleavage between Arab and Kurds, and regional instability.

As regards the Syrian opposition groups, the Arab opposition groups are saying, “they are all Syrians and they fight for Syrians people's rights”. Turkey supports this slogan as it is similar to its policy toward the rights of its own minorities. The Turkish authorities claim to support democracy and individual rights; however, they refuse to recognise any ethnic differences in the Syrian society and do not accept ethnic minority rights such as Kurdish political rights and any form of self-determination.

This instrumental approach for state building after the fall of the dictatorial regime cannot and does not guarantee the stopping of Kurdish oppression or the prevention of the marginalisation of Kurds in the future. It does not guarantee a protection of Kurdish interests and it only theoretically accepts the Kurds as Syrian individuals that have the same rights as any other Syrians. It is far from certain that the new Arab regime will or can protect individual and human rights. Discrimination against and the marginalisation of minority groups are inevitable as long the minorities do not have constitutional protections. This instrumental policy is a denial of the ethnic diversity in Syrian society and can be used cruelly against the minority groups. For instance, any attempts toward freedom can be accused as contributing to the division of Syrians and a betrayal against Syrian unity and sovereignty.

This instrumental sort of approach cannot solve the longstanding minority problems in Syria. Turkey failed to solve its Kurdish question by denying Kurdish political and cultural rights and insists on continuing this policy in spite of the continuing internal war and instability. Why should Syria take the same political way? Why refuse minority rights such as Kurdish rights and self-rule? The post-Assad Syria has to choose between peace and acceptance or rejection and internal instability.

The Syrian political leaders and outside powers that are interested in the issue have to take into consideration the Syrian society withits ethnic diversity and look at the minority rights as a question of justice, not as a security question, with the sole fear being that any minority right, power sharing and proportional participation of the minorities in power threatens the national security or national interests of Syria.

The Kurds, Christians, Alawites and other ethnic groups of Syria have their legitimate aspirations and dreams. The new political system must take all those needs and rights into consideration, so the political solution of the past problems can meet the wishes of those peoples.

The instrumental ideas and solutions cannot and will not meet the aspirations and needs of the minority groups, and thus cannot solve the past problems. Furthermore, the denial of recognition of the minorities, which is the hidden face of the slogan, “we are all Syrians”, is paving the way for another period of minority oppression and violations of human rights.

The peaceful coexistence of the Syrian ethnic groups requires acceptance of ethnic diversity, power sharing and equal distribution of wealth. A form of democratic federal system, in which there is a just power sharing policy, proportional representation, minority veto rights and local self-determination protected by a constitution can be the satisfactory solution of the Kurd-Arab conflict as well the other minority problems in Syria that can guarantee long-term peace and stability.


Shakhawan Shorash, a freelance writer from Iraqi Kurdistan and regular contributing writer for, you can visit Shorsh's website at:

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


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