Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The forgotten People: Kurds in Syria


You are kindly invitedto our forthcoming KSSO and Kurdish Society at SOAS (KSSOAS)

The state of statelessness, rightlessness and systematic marginalization of the Kurds in today's Syria


Ms. Sheila Mosley, Co-chair of SKS International support of Kurds in Syria
Mr. Alan Semo, Independent Researcher

Date/time: 19th November 2010 @19:00

Venue: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS), room B 104, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Organised by Kurdish Studies and Students Organization and Kurdish Society at SOAS

Seminar Abstract

This seminar will focus on marginalization of Kurds in Syrian since its establishment in 1946. The Kurds in Syria have been subjected to discriminatory practices for decades. The exclusive ethno-centric Arab nation-building project also officially called the Arab republic of Syria has denied other ethnic and cultural groups equal and law full existence. The Census in 1962 deprived 100,000 thousands of Kurds to become citizens and they are now de-jure stateless. This means they are not allowed to own property, or to work within the state institutions, they have been denied education in their own culture, they do not qualify for state aid, and they cannot travel as they have no documents.

Furthermore about the marginalization policies of Syrian state against the Kurds their land rights have been abused and the Kurdish areas have been raised, through the state giving strips of land to Arabs in order to break up the Kurdish geographical and cultural cohesion. The latest discriminatory law - Decree 49 - implemented on 10/09/2008 makes it a condition that in the Kurdish areas, a license must be obtained for building, renting, selling, and buying property but licenses are not given to Kurds. This is affectively destroying one of the key sources of income for Kurdish families, that is to say, the construction industry. This policy is forcing Kurds to move out of their area into the cities through poverty.

Moreover about Syrian state fight against the Kurdish culture and heritage a systematic cultural attack practiced daily attempting to undermine the use of Kurdish language, for example, Kurdish shopkeepers are threatened with closure if they use the Kurdish language on the shop frontage, Kurdish children are not allowed to have Kurdish names – and these names would not be registered. Cultural rights are being abused: Newroz is the Kurdish celebration of New Year, and takes place on 20/21 March. It is recorded that in 2008 and 2010, people were killed in the street whilst celebrating Newroz,

The economic and welfare rights of the Kurds have been abused: the Kurdish area are being affected by drought due to climate change, and the natural water that would have flowed to the area from Turkey is being rerouted into Turkey which has resulted in the agricultural industry being decimated as the land is becoming barren. People are suffering, and although international aid is being given to the Syrian Government, there is as yet no evidence that this aid is reaching Kurdish families. The UN Rapporteur for food rights recently raised this issue with the Syrian authorities. People without citizenship are not entitled to food aid.

Political rights are being abused: There are no legal Kurdish political parties in Syria. They are all banned. There has been a state of emergency since 1963, ostensibly to counter a threat from Israel; however, it is used to make arbitrary arrests and to imprison political activists indefinitely without trial. Sentences given to political activists by the courts are disproportionate and this system is designed to create fear in those who wish to challenge the Government. The UN Committee on Torture in May was highly critical of the Syrian Government for its use of torture on prisoners, and in particular on political prisoners.

Relevant reports abut the abuse of human rights in Syria are available from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Home Office, Kurdish Human Rights Project.


The UK Kurdish Studies & Student Organisation is a non-political body that strives to promote greater awareness of the Kurds, their political and cultural situation in the Middle East and as a significant minority community in the UK.