Syrian Arabs fear Iraqi Kurd scenario

The unprecedented clashes between Syrian Kurds and police last week have led Syrian Arabs to question whether Kurds in the region are determined to follow the path of their Iraqi peers.

    Syrian Qamishli is home to Arabs and Kurds

    Syrian Arabs are accusing some Kurd countrymen of trying to give the United States a pretext to intervene in Syria like it has done in neighbouring Iraq.

     

    Arabs on the streets of some Syrian cities voiced anger and dismay at recent violence in the north of the country, saying on Friday they believed Kurds were trying to stir up trouble.


    Unacceptable statement


    They also condemned statements by some Kurdish politicians seeking statehood. 

     

    "They are trying to drag the country into a war with the

    Americans now after they toppled (Iraq's) Saddam Hussein," said Jamal, who works at a bakery in the northern town of Aleppo, scene of bloody clashes between Kurds and police this week.


     

    "The Kurds are trying to portray Syria's (government) as if

    it is another Saddam ... I don't think they are mistreated. They are like any one of us living here."


    Syrian Kurds, who number about two million out of Syria's 17.6 million people, want their rights to be preserved in Syria.

    Kurds and police clashed in northern Syrian cities a week ago after a soccer match brawl in a stadium in Qamishli, near the Turkish border. About 30 people were killed and public buildings were damaged in the violence.


    Disappointment 

    Human rights activists, who have defended Kurds' calls for

    preserving their identity through Kurdish-language schools and

    supported citizenship demands by stateless Kurds, say the riots abused the right to peaceful protest. 

     

    Kurds are thought to number 20
    to 25 million in the Middle East

    Activist Ammar Kurabi said some people who had been campaigning to improve the lot of Kurds felt let down. 


    "
    We as opposition felt as if the Kurds deceived us. They say

    one thing to us about the national unity and Syria being a home for all but later we see them acting differently," Kurabi said

    "At first I used to blame the authorities because they dealt

    with the situation in a wrong way, but ... the Kurds should not

    have allowed the situation to reach this stage." 

    Kurabi said violent incidents gave the United States a

    pretext to "intervene in our country".  

    Varying demands
     

    Syria and Turkey have opposed any moves to strengthen

    Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq, fearing it could ignite

    separatist aspirations among their own Kurdish minorities.

    But Syrian Kurd demands are varied - some say they want

    equal rights with fellow Syrians; a few demand statehood and

    others say about 200,000 stateless Kurds should be given Syrian citizenship. 

    "
    We are the sons of this country," said Rachid Shabban of

    the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Syria, adding that

    "unjust" state policies made some Kurds bitter. 

    "
    There are some people in this state that are not reading

    the facts right. The world is changing and the region is

    changing, so the Syrian state has to change. They have to accept others' rights. 

    "
    We don't want a whole change, but at least as Kurds we want to be equal," he said. 

    "
    They want a state? They can have this," said abu Salim,

    70, making an insulting gesture. "I was a civil servant for 40

    years and I never asked anyone if he was a Kurd ..." 

    "
    Kurds have rights and they want them. Fair enough, everyone

    can ask for more rights, but not make war for (them) and destroy the country," said Umm Ammar, a housewife. 


    More rights

     

    Salam Alou, a Kurd in Aleppo, probably echoed the sentiments

    of most Kurds when he said he wanted more rights, not a separate state. 

    "
    Syria is our land and home, but the authorities do not

    listen to us or others," he said. 

    S
    yria, an east Mediterranean state with an Arab majority,

    has a wide ranging ethnic and religious mix that includes Kurds, Circassians, Assyrians, Armenians, Muslims, Christians and Jews. 

    "
    During my military service I had Kurdish mates. We used to

    eat from the same bowl and sing together at night," said Faruq, a taxi driver, visibly angry at the violence in the north. 

    "
    Last month I went to the wedding of one of them and I drove

    him and his bride to their house in this car," he said, banging

    on the steering wheel of his yellow cab.

     

    The crisis started last week after tensions between Arab and Kurdish football spectators developed into clashes. A Kurdish mob provoked Syrian nationals when they burnt the Syrian flag and raised the American one.  

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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