Syria to Grant Citizenship to Some of its Stateless Kurds


Following the nation-wide protests in Syria, in which the Kurdish towns took an active part, the Assad regime is attempting to mollify the Kurdish protesters. A new decree by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is set to grant some stateless Kurds Syrian citizenship and the rights that come with it.

On March 31 (the previous Thursday, ahead of the planned “Day of Martyrs” on Friday) the regime promised to review the 1962 census in the al-Hasakah that stripped 120,000 Kurds of citizenship. Today (April 7) ahead of protests planned for tomorrow, the Syrian state news agency (SANA) announced: “President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday issued Legislative Decree No. 49 on granting the Syrian Arab Nationality to the people registered in the registers of Hasaka foreigners.”

The Syrian regime distinguishes between Kurds who are registered as foreigners (ajanib) even though their families have lived in Syria for generations and unregistered (maktoumeen) Kurds. The “foreign” Kurds cannot vote, own property, obtain government jobs and travel outside of Syria. They are, however, not exempt from compulsory army service. The “foreign” Kurds are those who couldn’t prove in 1962 that they’ve resided in Syria since 1945. Today, the decedents of those 120,00 Kurds who were stripped of their citizenship number at about 225,000. The second group of stateless Kurds, the unregistered one, is denied of all the rights the “foreign” Kurds are deprived of, but they also cannot obtain any identification papers, receive treatment in government hospitals and the travel restrictions on them are even harsher. The unregistered Kurds are those who entered Syria since 1962. In 1995 there were 75,000 unregistered Kurds and their current number is estimated to be around 160,000.

Thus, the decree by Assad does not grant citizenship to all Kurds in Syria, since the SANA announcement clearly excludes the unregistered Kurds. In a meeting with Assad, Kurdish leaders raised the problems of the stateless Kurds and asked that all of them be granted citizenship, but the decree doesn’t answer that demand. Additional demands were raised by the Kurdish representatives, including release of political prisoners and the end of the dispossession of Kurds from their lands.

SOPARO, a Syrian Kurdish news site carried a statement by Kurdish Syrian youth rejecting the political bribe from the Assad regime. The activists stated that the demands of the Kurdish protesters are not limited to the issue of the stateless Kurds, and in partnership with the Syrian protesters, they have other demands. Those demands include “sincere reform” in the form of removal of state of emergency, end of corruption, abolishing of Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution that enshrines the Baath’s role in Syrian politics, reform of political party laws (currently all political parties except the Baath are banned in Syria), removing the Ministry of Information and release of all political detainees. Clearly, the demands of the Kurdish protesters, as heard in their chants in previous protests, are not limited to the issues affecting Kurds alone.

The statement goes on to call for a “peaceful and civilized uprising” in Qamişlo tomorrow (“Friday of Resistance”) following Friday prayers, “in honor of the blood of the martyrs” and in support of protests in Syria calling for change and democracy in Syria.