The Syrian government must put an immediate end
to human rights abuses against Syrian Kurds, Amnesty
International said in a report published Thursday on the eve of the anniversary
of the Qamishli clashes.
More than 30 Kurds were killed in clashes that spread from a football match
between Kurdish and Arab teams in Qamishli in northeastern Syria in March last
year. The clashes brought into focus the plight of Kurds in Syria.
Amnesty says that more than 2,000 people, almost all of them Kurds, were arrested
after the riots. "Kurdish detainees, including children as young as 12, women,
teenage girls and elderly people, were reportedly tortured and ill-treated,"
the report says. "Dozens of Kurdish students were expelled from their universities
and dormitories, reportedly for participating in peaceful protests."
Kurds remain a people without a nation, spread across Turkey which has the
largest population, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Kurds have faced persecution in all
these countries. There are an estimated 1.5 to two million Syrian Kurds.
The abuse of Kurd rights has continued after the clashes last year, the Amnesty
report says. "The authorities must open investigations into the allegations
of unlawful killings, deaths resulting from torture and ill-treatment in custody
and torture of Kurds that have come to light since March 2004," Amnesty
said in its report.
Since March 2004 there has been a significant increase in the number of reported
deaths of Kurds as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody, the Amnesty
"Five of nine such deaths reported to Amnesty International in the seven months
after March 2004 were of Syrian Kurds," the report says. "There have also
been a number of deaths in suspicious circumstances of Kurdish military conscripts
during the same period: at least six died, reportedly due to beatings or shootings
by military superiors or colleagues. No investigation is known to have been
carried out into any of the deaths in either category."
The report, which Amnesty says followed several months' research, also describes
the "systemic identity-based discrimination suffered by the Syrian Kurds."
The report highlights cases of Kurdish human rights defenders who have sought
to promote rights of the Kurdish population in Syria and suffered arrest, torture
and unfair trial.
"The Syrian authorities must set up an investigation into the apparently disproportionate
response of the security forces to the March 2004 events," said Amnesty International.
"They must investigate the alleged unlawful killings and deaths as a result
of torture and ill-treatment in custody and the widespread reports of torture,
and propose remedies to deal with the systemic discrimination against Kurds
as well as other human rights violations that may have contributed to the tension
and the outburst of violence."
The Amnesty report also calls on the Syrian authorities to end the prohibitions
on the use of the Kurdish language in education, the workplace, official establishments
and at private celebrations, and to allow children to be registered with Kurdish
names and businesses to carry Kurdish names.
Amnesty says several hundred thousand Syrian Kurds are effectively stateless
and, as such, are denied the full provision of education, employment, health
and other rights enjoyed by Syrian nationals, as well as being denied the right
to have a nationality and passport.
It has asked for legislation under which prisoners of conscience have been
imprisoned to be brought in line with Articles 18-22 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Syria has been
a party since 1969. That guarantees the right to freedom of conscience, expression,
assembly and association and the right to exercise these freedoms without undue
interference. It has asked for independent investigations into allegations of
unlawful killings and an amendment of legislation on nationality to find an
expeditious solution to the statelessness of Syrian-born Kurds.