Waves of arrests and abductions of Kurds in Syria
The Syrian government recently has intensified its arrests and abductions of the Kurdish activists who speak out against the inequality and discrimination the Kurdish people face in Syria. In 2010, dozens of Kurdish political activists were sentenced to prison on the basis of “inciting sectarian rife,” “to cut off part of Syrian land. (1)” Such and similar accusations have become like chewing a gum in the mouth of the Syrian authority when it comes to labeling anyone who speaks out against the systemic oppression they face and in creating awareness both inside and outside of Syria. Listed are some cases of brutalities in Syria in 2010, provided by Human Rights Watch (1):
-In January, journalist Ali Taha and photographer Ali Ahmed were detained, while covering social-related topics
-In March, military intelligence detained members of Kurdish human rights group MAF (“Rights” in Kurdish) Abdel Hafez Abdel rahman and Nadera Abdo for “undertaking acts to cut off part of Syrian land.”
-In June a military judge sentenced Madmud Safo to one year in prison for “inciting sectarian strife.”
-At least five detainees died in custody, which showed signs of torture on the bodies.
-In March security forces shot at Kurds celebrating Kurdish New Year, Newroz, killing at least one.
-In June military court sentenced at least nine Kurds alleged to have participated in a celebration “inciting sectarian strife.”
-The government continues to prevent activists from travelling abroad, including Radeef Mustapha, head of the Kurdish Human Rights Committee.
In the year 2011, Syrian government seemed to carry on the tradition of arbitrary arrests and oppression. According to Syrian Committee for Human Rights, Syrian government has abducted more than 15 activists only during the month of February, 2011. Among the abductees and detainees are Farhan Muhammad Bashir, female age 17 and female Besna Saaed Saadoun, age 15.
Syria has long been suppressive against the Kurdish people and has been increasing in their activities to deter the activists from publishing and voicing the brutalities and discrimination of the government. “At 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,” says Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director (2).
Kurds of Syria have long been familiar with the oppressive and brutal behavior of the government which dates back to more than 90 years. After the creation of the artificial state of Syria in 1918 from Ottoman Empire, the Syrian government started its atrocities against the Kurdish population. However, the most brutal and bloody crimes started after Syria’s independence in 1946 from the French Mandate. In the 1960s, the government implemented a policy of “Arabic belt,” a 300 kilometer long divided the Kurdish-populated areas, resettled the Kurdish families into non-Kurdish-populated area and Arabs were brought in to settle. Over 200,000 Kurds were deported into desert areas from this policy (3). Syrian government refuses to grant citizenships to Kurds ranging from 300,000 – 500,000, whom are inhabitant of the lands since generations. These “stateless” Kurds thus are unable to marry, buy land, open businesses, obtain visa, travel abroad, and obtain employment in any governmental and educational institutions (4). The Kurds make up 15-20 percent of the Syrian population.
(3) I. C. Vanly, The Kurds in Syria and Lebanon, In The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview, Edited by P.G. Kreyenbroek, S. Sperl, Chapter 8, Routledge, 1992 pp. 157