By Brandon Kaufman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria– According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kurds, who make up approximately ten percent of the Syrian population and who live primarily in the country’s northern and eastern regions, have been the subject of unlawful and unjustified discrimination in recent years.
In their report, HRW said that Syrian security forces have steadfastly attempted to ban and disperse gatherings calling for Kurdish minority rights or celebrating Kurdish culture., Additionally, the report details the detention of leading Kurdish political activists and their ill treatment while in custody. The report documents that the repression of Kurds in Syria has grown exponentially following large scale Kurdish demonstrations throughout 2004. The published material is based on interviews with over thirty Kurdish activists who have been recently released from prison. In response to requests for interviews, members of the Syrian government turned down requests for information or meetings.
The report asserts that Syrian authorities have repressed over a dozen Kurdish political and cultural gatherings since 2005, all being conducted in a peaceful manner. In addition to the repression of political meetings, security forces are said to have ended celebrations for the Kurdish New Year.
Sarah Lee Whitson, HRW Director for the Middle East and North Africa said that “aAt a time when other countries in the region, from Iraq to Turkey, are improving the treatment of their Kurdish minority, Syria remains resistant to change. In fact, Syria has been especially hostile to any Kurdish political or cultural expression.” She further went on to say that “the Syrian government sees threats everywhere, even in village new year celebrations. If the government wants better relations with its Kurdish minority, it should address their legitimate grievances instead of trying to silence them.”
Under international law, Syria is obligated to uphold freedom of expression and association, as well as the right to freedom of assembly. In addition, under international law, Syria is required to protect minorities and guarantee them the right to participate actively in public and cultural life.
For more information, please see:
Human Rights Watch- Group Denial: Repression of Kurdish Political and Cultural Rights in Syria– 26 November 2009
Human Rights Watch- Syria: End Persecution of Kurds– 26 November 2009
Asia Times- U.S. Designs on Syria’s Kurds– 9 April 2005