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Letter to The President of European Parliament

Representation Committee of Kurdish Parties in Syria – Europe Organisation

Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of European Parliament
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Dear President,

We write to you as the President of the [European Parliament] / [European Commission] with our concerns about our people in Syria, and a plea for European help with our situation.

On 2 November 2008, there was a demonstration by more than a thousand Kurds, from eight political organisations in Damascus, Syria. Almost 200 people including leaders of the Kurdish parties were arrested and all but two were released the same day.

The demonstration was a protest against the introduction of Decree 49 by the Syrian Government. This is a new law regarding property, which was suddenly introduced on 10th September 2008, following previous Decrees in relation to agricultural practices. The law stems from a fallacy that the Syrian Government is promoting to discredit Kurds that there is activity on the border between Syria and Turkey that threatens the security of Syria. This is where the majority of Kurds live. Decree 49 is designed to control the movement of people in this area by requiring them to obtain a license to build, rent, or buy property, in addition to the existing restrictions on agricultural practices in that area.

Land has been an important issue between Kurds and the Syrian Government. In 1962, the Government arranged a one-day census under Law 93, and decided on that day which people in the Kurdish area of al-Hassaka would be classed as citizens and who would not. Around 120,000 Kurds were stripped of their nationality that day, and are now known as ‘stateless Kurds’. They were also stripped of their rights, for example, they cannot move house, own land or a business, they have no travel documents or passports, there are certain jobs they cannot take, and medical treatment is not automatically given. The number of stateless Kurds grows every year, and we estimate there are now more than 400,000 people in this position.

In 1966 the Government began a programme known as ‘Arabization’ whereby around 100,000 Kurds were moved out of 300 villages and were replaced by Arabs. This was a tactic to separate the Kurdish population in Syria from the Kurds of Turkey and Iraq, and to keep them in smaller groups. They enforced it on 1973. These lands have not been returned to the Kurds.

In the past when the system of licensing was in place regarding agricultural lands only, no Kurds were issued with a license, and our fear is that we believe this will also be the case for the newly extended restrictions on property. The Kurds who live there will effectively be immobilised, and will share the same restrictions as have been imposed on stateless Kurds.

This is proof that the Government in Syria is regressing in its approach to the Kurds who live in the country, and it is the cause of real fear amongst the Kurdish population. We see that this is an attempt at ethnic cleansing of Kurds from Syria because we cannot live under these conditions. Our businesses will be affected, and we will be driven out of our own lands.

We see how Europe has begun to open its doors to the Syrian Government and to offer the hand of friendship to our oppressors. We are calling on the Governments of Europe to take the opportunities these communications offer to encourage and pressurise the Syrian Government to improve its behaviour towards Kurds, and to begin by revoking this Decree.

We ask you to prioritise our rights in any negotiations that are held with the Syrian Government.

In the Kurdish area of Syria we had little rain this year, and this has lead to a drought in this agricultural land. We have received no support from the Syrian Government in these difficult conditions. We need help from the international community because we are facing real poverty.

Sent: 27 November 2008