Dr Janroj Keles
Conference on Syria in the Context of the Arab Uprisings
Feb 12, 2014, London
Syrian National Council (SNC) (Syrian
Muslim Brotherhood (SMB))
Free Syrian Army (FSA)
Second largest ethnic group after the Arabs in Syria.
Located in the northern and northeast of the country (Jazeere: Qamishlo, AlHasakah; Kubani:Serikaniye;Çiyayê Kurmênc: Afrin)
But also in “Kurdish District” in Damascus (renamed as “Rukn al-Din”) and
neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqsoud (Aleppo).
Estimated number of Kurds: 10-15 percent of the population in Syria, totalling more
than 2 million, but have been treated as second-class citizens for generations.
This image shows the superficiality of the Turkish-Syrian border.
Kurdistan was divided by British and French colonists in the 1920s. As a
result of this, Kurdish families and relatives were separated for decades.
As image shows clearly that Kurds from Northern Kurdistan (Turkish
Kurdistan) communicate with their relatives in Western Kurdistan (Syrian
Kurdistan) through wire mesh fences.
The Syrian constitution defines the „Arab Syrian region‟ as part of
the Arab homeland (Article 1.2); the „people‟ of the Arab Syrian
region as part of the Arab nation (Article 1.3); Arabic as the official
language (Article 4).
Kurdish cultural, linguistic, and political rights have been denied
throughout the history of modern Syria.
The Syrian constitution officially denies the existence of Kurds and
their national and cultural rights.
Subjected to ethnic discrimination, political prosecution, displaced
as part of Syrian government‟s Arabization policies.
Discriminatory regulations ban use of the Kurdish
language, cultural and the formation of Kurdish civil and political
Political and economical marginalisation of Kurdish population
Syrian gov. stripped of the Syrian citizenship from 20
percent of Syria's Kurdish population in 1960 (Jazira
census, special population census conducted only for the
province of Jazira).
The census reflected a political agenda to arabize the
Kurdish region, an area rich in natural resources
Arbitrary categorisation of Kurds as
Ajanib (foreigners, Red ID Card) and Maktoumeen
(“unregistered”, White ID Card)
300,000 stateless Kurds without citizenship in Syria
Seizure of Stateless Kurds‟ property, which was seized by
the government and used for the re-settlement of Arabs
Article 3 of the Syrian nationality act stipulates that a person is
considered legally Syrian if he or she is: “Born inside or outside the
Syrian Arab republic of a Syrian father/ mother… parents with
anonymous nationality or parents with no nationality…..He has lived
in the Syrian Arab republic for five consecutive years”
However Kurds categorized as Ajanib and Maktoumeen were not
allowed to apply for the Syrian citizenship. They have limited
(Ajanib) or no right (Maktoumeen) to have access to
education, public health care, employment, ownership of
property, establishing their own business, registration of
births, death and marriage.
No rights to travel or no access to judicial and political systems.
They are also not allowed to vote or run for public office.
Some of them were repeatedly arrested for “possessing no legal
Kurds argue that the Syrian uprising began as a Kurdish one in the
city of Qamishlo in March 2004
Kurdish Serhildan (Uprising)-Kurdish mass demonstration against the
Syrian Regime in Kurdish region as well as Damascus and Aleppo.
The Baath Party local office was burned down by Kurdish
demonstrators and a statue of Hafez al-Assad was toppled
The Syrian army deployed thousands of troops backed by tanks and
helicopters, and launched a crack-down.
At least 30 Kurds were killed, thousands were arrested.
Thousands of Kurds fled to South Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan)
Kurdish demonstration in 2005, 2008 and 2011 (Indeed , since
1980s, Kurds have been main opposition in Syria until 2011)
Syrian constitution, Article 8 prohibited parties on the ground
of ethnicity. However Kurds have formed several “outlaw”
parties since 1956.
Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD) - Democratic Union Party, the most powerful Syrian Kurdish party. Its leaders are
Salih Muslim Muhammad and Asya Abdullah (founded in
Encumena Nîþtîmanî ya Kurdî li Sûriyeyê (ENKS) - Kurdish
National Council or KCN (Alliance of several 15 parties)
PYD+ENKS=The Kurdish Supreme Committee (Desteya
Bilind a Kurd), a governing body of Syrian
Kurdistan, established following the signing on 12 July 2012
of a co-operation agreement between the PYD+ENKS in
Hewler, South Kurdistan, under the auspice of Mr Masoud
Barzani, the President of Kurdistan Region in Iraq.
do not demand an independent Kurdish state in Syria
seek a peaceful solution for the Syrian Kurdish
have a secular tendency and reject any sort of
Islamic oriented state in Syria (separation of state and
demand the removal discriminatory, racist and
chauvinist practices in Syria
demand “self-administration”, “self-government”
(Yekiti) or “democratic autonomy” (PYD) of their
region which is called as Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan)
demand the reversal of the policies of the Baath
Party‟s Arabisation (Arab Belt) in Kurdish region
Kurdish parties demand
the granting citizenship of those Kurds
whose Syrian citizenship were stripped
the equality of men and women
freedom of assembly and speech
multi-political system and free elections
the separation of powers
SNC rejects the Kurdish demands for
constitutional recognition of Kurdish ethnic
identity and their political representation
through autonomy or federalism.
Kurds distrust SNC due to the influence of
Turkey on SNC
Kurds consider SNC as “still an Arab
nationalist organization with strong
tendencies of Arab Islamists” which does not
recognize the ethnic and religious plurality of
the country‟s population.
Kurdish forces (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel
or YPG) have come into conflict with
various jihadist groups, including the
Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham
(ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra.
However the Kurdish People‟s Protection
Units has successfully protect the Kurdish
region form the jihadists
Passport of an Egyptian suicide bomber who blew himself in Kurdish populated Efrin city. In
his bag, the Kurdish authorities found his document and passport . He received “transit visa”
from Turkish consular general in Alexandria and entered Syria from Turkey.
Kurds declared autonomous government in Rojava
on 12 November 2013 (representatives of more
than 50 parties are involved)
Three municipal councils (The Cizîre, Kobanê, and
Efrîn Cantons of West (Syrian) Kurdistan run the
territory‟s affairs. Each canton has its own president
and 22 ministries, including foreign
affairs, defense, justice and education.
Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian representatives are
appointed to each ministry. Kurdish, Arabic, and
Syriac have been designated as the canton‟s official
languages in Cizîre canton.
The Syrian revolution should not be seen as an
Islamist/jihadist revolution. It is the revolution of
subordinated, non-represented, marginalized people who
suffer under an authoritarian system.
However Syria has become a battleground of neighbouring
countries (Shia/Sunni conflict) and the great powers.
The Syrian conflict will not end soon. It is a long
The main Syrian opposition front is unable to acknowledge
the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi- religious and multipolitical nature of the country.
The militarization of the Syrian political movement has
prevented a possible and potential democratic transition
The growing threat to ethnic and religious minorities is
What will be the consequences of a hegemonic
domination of Islamic and nationalist oriented
post-Assad Syrian government for religious and
ethnic minorities? E.g. religious groups
(Christians, Yazidi, Alawatis, Shia, Ismailis, Twelve
r) and ethnic groups
(Kurds, Druzes, Assyrias, Turcoman, Tcherchess,
Armenian and Palestinian refugees)
Who will protect Alawatis from Islamists after
Negotiated solution as a possibility of way out
from the war?