[QODLink]
Middle East
Assad attempts to appease minority Kurds
Syrian president issues decree granting nationality to thousands of Kurds in eastern al-Hasaka.
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2011 06:45
Bashar al-Assad is seeking to stem protests against one-party Baath rule [Reuters] 

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has issued a decree granting nationality to thousands of Kurds living in the eastern al-Hasaka region as part of efforts to ease resentment over nearly five decades of strict Baathist rule.

It was not immediately clear how many would get nationality, but the announcment on Thursday is due to affect at least 150,000 Kurds currently registered as foreigners as a result of a 1962 census in the region.

But Kurdish leader Habib Ibrahim said that Kurds would press their non-violent struggle for civil rights and democracy to replace autocratic rule despite Assad's decision.

"Our cause is democracy for the whole of Syria. Citizenship is the right of every Syrian. It is not a favour. It is not the right of anyone to grant," Ibrahim, who heads the Democratic Unity Kurdish Party, told the Reuters news agency.

Governor sacked

State television also said that Assad had fired the governor of Homs province, one of the areas affected by recent protests calling for greater freedoms. Replacing the governor was one of the main demands of protesters last week.

In another move to appease the ethnic Kurds, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 48 Kurds were released on Tuesday, more than a year after they were arrested in the eastern city of Raqqa.

The Syrian leader also met provincial leaders from the Kurdish east of the country earlier in the week to listen to their demands, the official news agency reported.

Assad cracked down on ethnic Kurds, who make up about 10-15 per cent of Syria's 20 million people, after they launched violent demonstrations against the state in 2004.

Recent popular protests have shaken mainly Sunni Muslim Syria for nearly three weeks, with demonstrators demanding an end to emergency law and one-party rule by the Baath Party.

The pro-democracy protests first erupted in the southern city of Daraa, where many Sunni Muslim tribes resent the power and wealth accumulated by the Alawites, an offshoot sect of Shia Islam.

Syria's ruling hierarchy has not tolerated any dissent and has used emergency laws to justify arbitrary arrests, including those of other minorities such as Kurds who say they are discriminated against.

In a move to mollify conservative Muslims, Syria also lifted on Wednesday a ban on teachers wearing the full face veil and ordered the closure of the country's only casino.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lacking cohesive local ground forces to attack in tandem, coalition air strikes will have limited effect, experts say.
Hindu right-wing groups run campaign against what they say is Muslim conspiracy to convert Hindu girls into Islam.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
Muslim caretakers maintain three synagogues in eastern Indian city, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.
Amid fresh ISIL gains, officials in Anbar province have urged the Iraqi government to request foreign ground troops.