Kurdish Protests of 2004 are honored in Syria in 2012


Syrian streets were once again filled with protesters last Friday, as has been the case for most Fridays throughout the course of the year-long revolution. However, for Kurds, this Friday, nicknamed “In Solidarity of the Kurdish Intifada” marked a special show of solidarity from their Syrian comrades in honor of the 8th anniversary of the Kurdish protests that happened long before Egypt and Tunisia shook the Middle Eastern status quo.

The name honored today’s anniversary of the protests that took place in Qamishlo starting from March 12th, 2004. At the time, the Kurdish National Government in Iraq was gaining strength, making Arab nationalists in Syria inherently suspicious of Syrian Kurds. After Arab fans at a football match in Qamishlo waved pictures of Saddam Hussein and chanted pro-Hussein slogans, the match resulted in a riot and a month’s worth of protests by Syrian Kurds demanding their human rights and greater autonomy. In response, Syrian security forces shot live rounds and tear gas into the crowds, killing over 30 protesters. Thousands of Kurds fled to Iraq in fear of further reprisals from the Syrian government. Kurds in Syria continued to be a thorn in the regime’s side, protesting again in 2008 and in 2010. In both years protests broke out after the regime violently cracked down on Kurds simply celebrating the holiday of Norouz.

Then, Kurds suffered the government’s crackdowns in silence, relatively isolated from the rest of the country. In fact, Arab silence back then was a reason why the Kurdish opposition was reluctant to join in the 2011 Syrian uprisings. (Kurdish youth, however, flooded the streets of Qamishlo and Amoude from the beginning.) However, the last year of uprisings has redefined the lines of solidarity in Syria, with parts of the Syrian population that had previously been very isolated enthusiastically showing solidarity for each other. Few Kurdish protests emerged without signs and chants in support of the besieged city of Homs, and on Friday, Homsis and Syrians all over Syria went out and returned the favor by chanting in honor of the Kurdish protests of previous years.

The Syrian revolution has shown signs of being supportive of Kurdish rights. Last month, Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun addressed Kurds directly, promising a decentralized central government and national recognition of the Kurdish identity. Ghalioun has made problematic statements regarding Kurds in Syria in the past, comparing them to immigrants in France at one point.

A video compilation posted to YouTube yesterday displayed images and videos of Kurdish protests from 2004 to 2012, revealing the years long Kurdish resistance to the Assad regime.

A collection of videos, images, and articles highlighting protests against Assad’s regime in Kurdish cities is available on Crowdvoice.