Kurdish issue related articles, news etc.
The Kurds, who are largest non-Arab ethnic group in Syria, constitute between 10-15 percent of the Syrian population, or approximately 2.5 million people. Most of the Kurds are living in the northern part of Syria along Turkish border. There are also significant number of Kurdish population in Damascus and Aleppo. Most of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims and speak the Kurmanji, a dialect of the Kurdish language. (Minority Rights, 2011) Although the Kurds form more than 10% of the Syrian population, according to the constitution of 1973, the Syrian government, officially defines all citizens explicitly as Arab. The Kurds are neither recognized as national nor ethnic minority in Syria. That’s why it’s difficult to know exact number of Kurdish population in this country. The Kurds are not permitted to practice their culture and traditions values freely and often activities such New Year celebrations have been led to clashes between security forces and protesters. (Montgomery, 2005: pp. 8-9) (Amnesty international, 2005) According to Human Rights Watch, Syrian Kurds subjected to systematic discrimination by Syrian Regime, including the random denial of citizenship. (HRW, October 1996)
From Qamishli Riot to Syrian uprising
In March 2004, Qamishli, the biggest Kurdish City in Syria, witnessed a historic moment of discrimination against Kurds in the country. A small clash between rival Kurdish and Arab football fans, gave excuse to repressed Kurds to conduct large-scale demonstrations. The day after Qamishli riot, protest spread to other Kurdish populated areas. The scale of the mobilization alarmed the authorities. Syrian Army quickly stepped in and suppressed the riot by deploying thousands of troops, tanks, helicopters etc. During the crackdown of the riots at least 36 Kurdish protesters killed, more than 100 injured, 2000 arrested and thousands estimated to flee to Iraqi Kurdistan. (Amnesty International, 2005) (HRW, 2009:1) The March 2004 events became a major turning point in relations between Syria’s Kurds and the central government. Decades-long marginalization, ill-treatment and torture of political prisoners and identity-based socio-political discrimination against the Kurds continued under Bashar al-Assad rule. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Syrian Kurds subjected to more suppressive policies after post-Qamishli riot. (HWR, 2009:1) A report issued by Amnesty international states that dozen of Kurdish students were expelled from their universities, including at least 11 expelled from Damascus University, reportedly because of their participation in peaceful protests to condemn violent crackdown of demonstrations in Qamishli and other Kurdish enclaves. Since March 2004, Syrian security forces prevent at least 14 peaceful political and cultural public rallies, including attacking participants, causing to death and mass arrests of civilians. (HRW, 2009: pp.3-4)
Pressure on the Kurdish community as well as other minorities continued until March 2011 and beginning of so called Syrian uprising. Although Kurds had long-standing complaints against Assad’s government, because of distrust toward Turkey based-opposition, they were skeptical to join the uprising for a while. Except peaceful demonstrations of young Kurdish activist, there were no report about armed clashes between government forces and Kurdish fighters until June 2012. The Kurds mostly regard themselves as neutral in the civil war and declared their major goal as “self-defense, self-government”. (Jenkins, 2014:11) A year after, the Kurds took advantages of chaotic situation in Syria and by the withdrawal of Asaad military, military wings of Democratic Union Party (PYD), the most strong and organized political party in the area, took control over the Kurdish cities, military bases, governmental constructions and filled the security vacuum without any resistance. The Kurds then did not started struggle against regime forces instead created a buffer zone and tried to protect their territories. While Damascus remained silenced, from the very beginning, Turkey, because of affiliation of PYD with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), alarmed by Kurdish move in Syria. PKK has fought Turkey since 1984 for Kurdish rights in this country. (Flader, 2014) In November 2013, Democratic Society Movement (TEVDEM), an umbrella organization including PYD and 16 other political party and organizations, declared three autonomous transitional governments and in three geographically separated three Cantons called “Rojava Kurdistan” means West part of Kurdistan, within Syria. (Crisis Group, 2014:16) TEVDEM then issued a semi-constitution document, so called “Social Contract” for Cantons. The Cantons established in the mostly Kurdish populated areas (Afrin, Ayn-al-Arab-Kobane and Jazira) led by “principles of equality and environmental sustainability” according to the Social Contract. The Social Contract further promises “freedom, justice, dignity and democracy” and also proclaims a new social order, based on “mutual and peaceful coexistence and understanding between all strands of society”. The made up by majority of the Kurds but there are significant numbers of Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens and Arabs. A charter of Social Contract promises to protect “fundamental human rights and liberties and reaffirms the peoples’ right to self-determination.” (Civiroglu, 2014)
unedited text, from Mesud Menaf’s weblog
Links, reports, Books, Journal Articles and Essays about Syrian Kurds