Kurds in Syria Granted Citizenship: What Now?


For over 50 years, over 300,000 Kurds in Syria were labeled foreigners in a 1963-census that was carried out in an arbitrary manner which restricted the “foreigner” Kurds acquiring employment, education, health, property, or even marriage. The government has banned the Kurdish language to be used in any educational and governmental institution nor were they allowed to gather to celebrate cultural events, such as Newroz, the Kurdish New Year. The suppression of the Kurds by the government has a long history, including a recent demonstration that took place in 2004 that was put down by “lethal force” killing over 36 and injuring more than 160, reported Human Rights Watch.

Due to the recent demonstrations in Syria, by Kurds and Arabs alike, against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, President Assad has promised reform to the nation, and has granted the Stateless Kurds registered as “foreigners” citizenship. State-run media said President Assad on Thursday issued a decree granting “Syrian Arab nationality”.

The Kurds must be very careful with this mastery that could be nothing but a manipulation. The protests in Syria have entered its third week and are advancing strongly. President Assad in his speech in the parliament on March 30th spoke of obscure reform and since has cracked harder on the protesters with so far killing over 200 demonstrators. In fear of the demonstration to enlarge and infuriate, President Assad in his attempt to defuse the protests is forced to make such untrusted promises and vague concessions. It is a trap for the protesters to fall into and once in, they will remain in as decades more will take in order to gain another such momentum, a momentum the Syrians have seen for the first time.

President Assad seems to be aiming for two birds with one stone; in his latest grant of citizenship to the Kurds, one, he is hoping with this “good news” the Kurdish protests will die out and the protesters will go home out of happiness; and two, in his devilish hope, attempting to erase the census of the ethnic Kurd by converting their ethnic identity from Kurdish into Syrian Arab. If succeeded, this will eradicate the term Kurd from census and from the population of the country, and eventually in a long-term period, potentially erase the term Kurds with their language and culture. No Kurd should accept this form of genocide and should not apply to become citizen under such title. This decree of President Assad rather seems to run parallel, if not more dangerous, to Lieutenant Muhammad Talab Hilal.

Lt. Hilal was a Syrian who was heading the Political Branch of secret police in Hasaka, Syria. In 1963 he wrote “A study about the Hasaka Province from ethnic, social, and political aspects;” in the book he lays out plan to create “Arabic belt” which would change the demographic of the Kurdish region of Hasaka and other Kurdish-populated areas. More than 200,000 Kurds were deported from these areas and Arabs were brought in. This is also another reparation President Assad must make for his father’s Hafez al-Assad and Syrian government’s injustice. President Assad should compensate for the losses and troubles those deported incurred and right now if their lives are worse than it was before getting deported, they must also get compensated.

Furthermore, if President Assad is genuine in his concessions then what about the long suffering the Kurds endured being labeled “foreigners” by the government? They greatly suffered economically, educationally, in health, and psychologically. Those “foreigners” were not allowed to work, were not allowed to go to schools and obtain education, there were no state-funded medical for them, nor were they able to buy any property for business or personal. This labeling impeded their progressiveness and created state of failure, devastation, and misfortune, in all aspects of life. And this tragedy continued for two generations. Will President Assad compensate all those who were affected, directly and indirectly? Will President Assad provide them all that were forbidden to them, basically the necessities of life and progress? The Kurds must include this essential point to their demand and President Assad can only show his honesty if he includes this, among others.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Kurds faced assaults, torture, harassment, and even murder.The long oppression on the Kurds, their language and educational institutions, and their culture must be reversed by implementing policies and plan to adopt the Kurdish language in education, to build a functioning hospitals with functioning equipment, to build houses for the hundreds of thousands of deprived of such simple necessity, to build better roads, to build modern infrastructure. The Syrian government must recognize that injustice and crime against humanity was carried out against the Kurdish people, must recognize that the Kurds were of deprived people by the state, and must create barriers to any future undertakings of such injustice by adopting clear and concise policies.

The Kurds must soberly, with clear mind, and united sit on the same table amongst each other and thoroughly think about such concession given by President Assad and not to get tricked. Trickery has also been a long tool used by various governments against the Kurds; we must clearly recognize their tricks by now. And until then, the demonstrations should continue with all force and power. The Assad regime does not have much longer as it seems more factions of the country are joining the wide spread demonstration and the Assad regime can only afford to make more and more concessions; and if during this weak point of the regime we do not succeed then situation will go back to what it was.