Skip to content


Personal tools
You are here: Home » more temp news » test » SYRIA FACES UPRISINGS IN KURDISH AREAS


Document Actions
The political developments in eastern Syria come as other internal opponents of the Baathist regime have grown bolder in the last week. `The fact there is a strong Kurdish movement emerging in Syria is an interesting development. This is certainly a result of Kurds in Syria seeing what the Kurds in Iraq have accomplished.`

Date: 23 March 2004

Source: Website of the Kurdish Democratic Party

Renewed Pressure From America BUSH READIES NEW SANCTIONS

By ELI LAKE Staff Reporter of the NY Sun

WASHINGTON - The Middle East's remaining Baathist dictatorship, Syria,is facing an uprising from its Kurdish eastern regions, a development that may increase pressure on Damascus, a leading sponsor of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Syria's 11 often fractious underground Kurdish parties are organizing a unified front after Syrian paramilitaries and troops were sent to the eastern part of the country to quell riots sparked 10 days ago.

The riots began on March 12 after a local soccer match between the Kurdish city of Qamashli and the Arab team of Deir al-Zor turned violent, with nine Kurds killed by security forces and armed spectators.

The next day, at a funeral for the slain soccer fans, Syrian security forces opened fire into the crowd with live ammunition, according to Kurdish sources and a Human Rights Watch report issued Friday. The report said at least 30 had been killed and 160 injured.

Since then, the events in Qamashli have sparked riots in at least five neighboring Kurdish cities, with demonstrators attacking police stations and statues of Hafez al-Assad, the father of Syria?s dictator, Bashar al-Assad.

Mr.Assad last week dispatched a general in his intelligence service, Muhammad Mansura, along with between five and 10 military units to negotiate with a population outraged by the violent suppression of demonstrations.

The political developments in eastern Syria come as other internal opponents of the Baathist regime have grown bolder in the last week.

Earlier this month, an American diplomat was arrested with a group of demonstrators in Damascus outside the American embassy calling for reforms in the government.

It was an unusual event in a country where the government often swiftly suppresses any hint of opposition. In another sign that change may be afoot in Syria, the New York Times ran a profile of a man making a documentary with the working title, `Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath.?`

The increasing agitation within Syria is coupled with renewed external pressure from America.

President Bush this week is expected to impose some economic sanctions on Damascus, in line with the provisions of the Syria Accountability Act. The sanctions will likely include a ban on aviation technology and an order banning Syrian aircraft from flying over America airspace.

On Saturday, Secretary of State Powell, who visited Damascus shortly after the conclusion of Operation Iraqi Freedom, called on Mr. Assad to remove Syrian forces from Lebanon.

`We are rejecting the Syrian offer to negotiate with General Mansura and the interior ministry. We want to meet with Bashar Assad,` said Sherkoh Abbas, an American spokesman for the new umbrella organization of Kurdish parties in Syria.

`We want the Syrian military out of our towns, to go back to their original positions, and immediately remove the Syrian governor of Hassaka, Salim Daboul, who fired on peaceful marchers at the March 13 funeral,` he said.

Mr. Abbas told The New York Sun that Syria's 11 Kurdish political parties, now calling themselves the Kurdish Leadership Council, have also asked the leadership of the Kurdish parties in Iraq,the United Nations,and America to send a delegation of observers to Qamashli to investigate the massacres. He said an American delegation from Iraq met with General Mansura last week to discuss this. Syria`s information ministry denied this when it was originally reported in the Israeli newspaper Ha`aretz.

`Syria has been the country that has had the most aggressive and seemingly effective assimilation policies,` a former State Department official, Peter Galbraith, told the Sun. `The fact there is a strong Kurdish movement emerging in Syria is an interesting development. This is certainly a result of Kurds in Syria seeing what the Kurds in Iraq have accomplished.`

Mr. Galbraith, who ferreted out scores of official Iraqi documents proving the Iraqi role in gassing civilians in Halabja, said, `This is a rather different kind of domino effect as envisioned by the administration. This had the effect of inspiring Kurdish nationalism.`

The soccer riots in Qamishli have resonated throughout the Kurdish exile community. On Sunday, the name of the city alone was a rallying call as 150 Kurdish Americans gathered in front of the Syrian embassy here in Washington chanting, `Saddam and Assad are the same, the only difference is the name.` One man held a placard bearing a photograph of Saddam Hussein, his son Qusay, and Hafez al Assad, with an `x` marked through their faces.The sign also displayed a picture of Bashar al-Assad and was labeled `three down, one to go.`

According to Kurdish exiles in contact with eyewitnesses at the event, the Arab fans carried chains, knives, and pistols into the stadium and chanted pro-Saddam Hussein slogans, taunting the Kurdish fans, who shouted back `Long live Bush.` At one point, the crowd, which Kurdish sources said arrived at the stadium in buses paid for by the state, threatened to turn Qamashli into Halabja, the site of Saddam Hussein`s use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians on March 16, 1988.

A State Department deputy spokesman, Adam Ereli, said last week, `In Syria, citizens of Kurdish descent have been protesting the lack of equal rights and in the ensuing violence the authorities have not only killed and injured demonstrators, but also clamped down hard on normal life in cities where there is a Kurdish majority. We have made our concerns known, and we reiterate our call upon the Government of Syria to stop suppressing nonviolent political expression in Syria and Lebanon.`

Last week, Masoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq, referred on Kurdish satellite television to the events in Syria as western Kurdistan, signaling for the first time since before the Iraq war that the Iraqi Kurdish parties, which have pledged to uphold the territorial integrity of Iraq, may have desires to form a greater Kurdistan.


Rights for the Kurds

Date: 17 March 2004

Source: Website of the Kurdish Democratic Party

reprinted from the Washington Times

By Hiwa Osman

A perfect opportunity has arisen for President Bush to prove to the people of the Middle East that his policy in their region is about democratization and reform and not about pure economic or political interest.

Over the past week, a wave of rallies swept the Kurdish areas of Syria and Iran in support of their fellow Kurds in Iraq, who have finally received the recognition for which they have been fighting for almost 80 years with the signing of Iraq's interim constitution.

Typical of autocratic regimes, the authorities in both countries violently quelled the expression of support for the democratic rights earned next door in Iraq. As a result, dozens were killed, and many more injured at the hands of Iranian and Syrian security forces.

The Kurds in Syria, Iran and in Turkey are perhaps the most repressed and discriminated-against populations in the Middle East. In Turkey, even their identity as Kurds is still denied; they are called Mountain Turks. In Syria, they are denied all civil and political rights. Almost 200,000 are denied citizenship outright. They cannot vote, own property, go to state schools or get government jobs. Kurds in Iran live in similar repressive situations.

In all three countries, public services, education and health care in Kurdish areas are purposefully underdeveloped. Even the most casual traveler in the Kurdish regions of these countries cannot help but notice that the difference between these areas and the non-Kurdish ones is like the difference between the white and black areas of old South Africa.

To the Syrian and Iranian regimes, recognition of minority rights and individual freedoms is a threatening and alien concept. The Syrian state broadcasting said that the demonstrations damaged "the stability and security of the homeland and the citizen" and that they were the fault of "some intriguers," who had adopted "exported ideas."

But to the people who live under these regimes, these demonstrations are not about destabilization or even separation. They are about asserting the right to live in dignity and as equal citizens in their country.

Following the demonstrations, I received a desperate e-mail from the Kurdish city of Qamishly, Syria, where one of the major demonstrations took place and Syrian police had killed 19. Written in coded language, the e-mail starts: "I can't tell you much; I will be imprisoned or killed." The message then begged me to tell the world what happened in his city.

Back in November, the same person sent an almost euphoric e-mail describing his feeling when he heard Mr. Bush in London saying, "We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East ? [We] have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability."

The writer considered this statement a major shift in U.S. policy in the Middle East and an open commitment to stop tolerating oppression like that in his country and start supporting democratic change.

A Kurd from Turkey picked up on and praised another point in the same speech: "We cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient ? our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found."

With these words, Mr. Bush gave great hope to the Kurds of the Middle East, and they are waiting for him to oppose the tyranny just displayed this past week.

In fact, in one of the demonstrations in Syria this past week, a banner carried by the demonstrators read: "With our lives, with our souls, we sacrifice for you O Bush" — the slogan that people in Syria normally chant for President(s) Asad.

Many Kurds today consider these demonstrations as the real test for the words of Mr. Bush. They are waiting for the United States to condemn the Syrian and Iranian response and to voice support for the right of the Kurdish people to express their opinion in peaceable demonstrations.

When the war last spring geared, and an alliance was struck between the coalition and the Kurdish peshmerga forces, skeptics said that the United States is not after the interest of the Iraqi people, but only serving its own interests. "Since when was the U.S. supportive of democracy in the Middle East?" said an Arab intellectual on one of the Arab Satellite television channels just before the war.

Apart from recent history, when the safe haven was established in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Kurds have had a bitter experience with the United States. Thousands have died over several previous decades when the United States failed to deliver on promised support.

These recent demonstrations should be neither feared nor dismissed. The people of the Middle East both want and are willing to fight for democracy in their countries. The U.S. government must express their support for Kurdish rights in the autocratic countries in which they live to prove to all that there is a sincere change of policy.

As Mr. Bush said in November, "Our part, as free nations, is to ally ourselves with reform, wherever it occurs."

Hiwa Osman is a Baghdad-based journalist.


Created by keza
Last modified 2005-01-06 06:54 PM

Powered by Plone

This site conforms to the following standards: