Syria: Country of Origin Information (COI) Report Aug 2012
Extracts: 9.15: The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report, ‘State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012: Syria‘, published 28 June 2012, noted:
When the Syrian uprising began, the Assad government sought to placate minorities in Syria and in April issued a decree granting Kurds citizenship. As the citizenship process includes an interview with the state security apparatus, which entails interrogation and intimidation, few Kurds are willing to go through with it. Young Kurdish men who did apply for citizenship were asked to do military service, which might entail joining the army against the protesters
15.27 The Security Section of the Jane‘s Information Group‘s Sentinel Country Risk Assessments‘, last updated 23 February 2012, stated:
Syria’s 1.7 million Kurds represent the largest, most persistent and, potentially the most
coherent, source of popular disaffection toward the country’s Arab nationalist regime.
For decades, Syria’s answer to the Kurdish question has combined ethnic repression with a firm denial of Syrian-Kurdish identity. Historical grievances abound, but the issue with most traction inside Syria and abroad has been the exclusion of 300,000 Kurds from citizenship rights and hence land ownership and government employment. In an effort to prevent the Kurdish population from joining anti-government protests, in April 2011, Assad granted 300,000 Kurds full citizenship rights; however, the move has not prevented many Kurds from continuing to demonstrate against the regime. [8a]
For recent information on the situation of Kurds in Syria, see the Syria and Reports web pages of the UK-based International Support Kurds in Syria Association – SKS. [48a-48b] See also map of Kurdish areas of Syria
20.03 The USSD Background Note‘, updated March 2012, reported The Kurds, many of whom speak the banned Kurdish language, make up 9% of the population and live mostly in the northeast corner of Syria, though sizable Kurdish communities live in most major Syrian cities as well. [7a] (People)
20.04 The May 2010 report, Human rights issues concerning Kurds in Syria‘, of a joint factfinding mission by the Danish Immigration Service (DIS) and ACCORD/Austrian Red Cross to Damascus, Syria, Beirut, Lebanon, and Erbil and Dohuk, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), noted:
The vast majority [of the Kurdish population in Syria] is Sunni and speaks its own distinct language, Kirmanji. Kurds live in large numbers along the borders with Iraq and Turkey in three areas of concentration: the Jazira in the northeast, the ‘Ain Arab region in the north, and the highlands in the northwest around Afrin (also known as Kurd Dagh
(Mountain of the Kurds)). There are also sizeable Kurdish populations in Aleppo and Damascus. [60a] (p7)
20.05 The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) in the launch, on 4 July 2011, of its Briefing Paper on Mother-Tongue Education in the Kurdish Regions‘, including Syria, noted,
The paper concludes that mother-tongue education, which in itself may be regarded as a fundamental right under international law, is not adequately recognised, protected or promoted in the Kurdish regions, serving as a barrier to conflict resolution in that area.[61c] With regard specifically to Syria, the report stated,
The Syrian Constitution fails to entrench the right to freedom of expression as it requires that the expression amounts to …constructive criticism in a manner that safeguards the soundness of the domestic and nationalist structure and strengthens the socialist system…‘ These conditions may be used by the Syrian authorities to suppress any Kurdish language rights which they regard as a threat to the State. [61d]
20.06 The USSD Report 2011 stated, Although the government contended there was no discrimination against the Kurdish population, it placed limits on the use and teaching of the Kurdish language. It also restricted the publication of books and other materials in Kurdish, Kurdish cultural expression, and at times the celebration of Kurdish festivals.
[7b] (Section 6)
20.07 A submission by the Kurdish Human Rights Project [KHRP] to the United Nations General Assembly, published in Summary : [Universal Periodic Review] : Syrian Arab Republic / prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1‘ published 25 July 2011, stated:
KHRP noted that stateless Kurdish children faced problems to be registered at school as their parents often cannot obtain the required documents. Thus, access to education continued to be constrained throughout the child‘s development, with serious implications for subsequent employment. KIS [Kurds in Syria] indicated that Kurdish students and workers continued to be subjected to arbitrary transfer or expulsion from governmental institutes, departments and institutions.
KHRP stated that the Syrian authorities put pressure on Kurds to prevent them from celebrating the Nowruz Festival, the Kurdish New Year. [56b] (Paragraphs 57-58)
20.08 The same review also noted, According to KHRP, stateless Kurds are precluded from working in certain professions requiring Syrian citizenship and often have to work in the informal sector on an illegal basis.[56b] (Paragraph 49)
For more information, see the International Support Kurds in Syria Association – SKS August 2010 report, Decree 49 – ethnic cleansing of Kurds in Syria. [48c]
20.09 Amnesty International‘s Annual Report 2012 – Syria, published 24 May 2012, stated:
Members of the Kurdish minority, comprising an estimated 10 per cent of the population, continued to face identity-based discrimination, including legal restrictions on use of their language and culture. They were also effectively stateless until President al-Assad issued Legislative Decree No. 49 on 7 April granting Syrian nationality to Ajanib (foreign‘) Kurds but not to those known as Maktoumeen (concealed‘, effectively meaning unregistered) who live mostly in al-Hasakah governorate. Kurdish rights activists continued to face arrest and imprisonment. [12b]
20.10 Human Rights Watch‘s (HRW) World Report 2012, released 22 January 2012, also reported that On April 4  President Assad enacted a decree that would grant citizenship to a number of Syria-born stateless Kurds. [39b]
30.03 The US Department of State 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices‘ (USSD Report 2011), published 24 May 2012, stated:
Following the 1962 census, approximately 120,000 Syrian Kurds lost their citizenship.
The single-day census in 1962 was ordained by legislative decree and executed unannounced to the inhabitants of al-Hassake Province. Government justification for this measure was to identify Kurds who had entered the country since 1945. In practice anyone who was not registered for any reason or did not have all the required paperwork became foreign‘ overnight and anyone who refused to participate was recorded as undocumented.‘ This process stripped some 150,000 Kurds of Syrian nationality. As a result they and their descendants lacked identity cards and therefore were unable to access government services, including health care and education. They also faced social and economic discrimination. Furthermore, stateless Kurds do not have the right to inherit or bequeath assets, and their lack of citizenship or identity documents restricted their travel to and from the country.
On April 7, President Asad issued Decree No. 49 declaring that stateless Kurds in the Hassake Governorate registered as foreigners‘ could apply for citizenship, and as of September 13, the Web site KurdWatch reported that 51,000 stateless Kurds had received identity cards indicating their citizenship. However, the decree did not extend to the approximately 160,000 unregistered‘ stateless Kurds, who remained without a national identity at year‘s end. [7b] (Section 2d)
30.04 The Security section of the Jane‘s Information Group‘s Sentinel Country Risk Assessments‘, last updated 23 February 2012, stated, In an effort to prevent the Kurdish population from joining anti-government protests, in April 2011, [President] Assad granted 300,000 Kurds full citizenship rights; however, the move has not prevented many Kurds from continuing to demonstrate against the regime.[8a]
30.05 Reuters, in a report of 7 April 2011, Syria’s Assad takes more steps to appease Kurds‘, noted, Syria’s leader issued a decree on Thursday granting nationality to people in the eastern al-Hasaka region where many Kurds live, part of efforts to ease resentment over nearly five decades of strict Baathist rule. It was not immediately clear how many would be given nationality, but at least 150,000 Kurds are registered as foreigners as a result of a 1962 census in al-Hasaka. [68a]