In its recent publication, the 2010 World Report, Human Rights Watch summarises human rights conditions in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide from 2009. It reflects extensive investigative work undertaken last year by Human Rights Watch staff, usually in close partnership with domestic human rights activists.
Below you will find snippets of information about the Kurds from the 624-page HRW report. I only highlight them below. If you want more information and context regarding these references, please download Kurdistan Commentary’s 6-page summary (.pdf) of all references to Kurds in the HRW report.
If you want to read the entire report, or various country chapters, please direct yourself to HRW website. The full report is a free, 4MB download.
The five countries that are mentioned with reference to the Kurds are: Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The chapter on Iran, however, mostly focuses on the elections from last summer. Very little is mentioned about the issues facing the Kurds in Iran.
The Council of Europe also issued a report in September 2009 on the situation of minority languages in Armenia, in which it called upon the authorities to “develop a structured policy to make available sufficient teacher training and updated teaching materials in Assyrian, Yezidi and Kurdish at all education levels.”
The obstacles to change [vis-a-vis the Kurdish issue] remain clear. Numerous provisions of the current constitution restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms, and a new constitution must be a priority. There were continuing prosecutions and convictions of individuals who expressed nonviolent critical opinion or political views on the Kurdish issue, among other subjects viewed as controversial.
The criminalisation of opinion remains a key obstacle to the protection of human rights in Turkey, although debate is increasingly open and critical.
Restrictions on broadcasting in minority languages were progressively lifted in 2009. January saw the opening of a Kurdish-language state television channel, TRT Şeş, and in November there was an easing of restrictions on private channels broadcasting in minority languages.
Demonstrators deemed supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are treated similarly to the group’s armed militants by courts.
Since November 2007 the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which has 20 members in parliament, has been faced with a closure case pending before the Constitutional Court for alleged separatist activities.
Human Rights Defenders
In Ankara in November lawyer Filiz Kalaycı, former head of the Ankara branch of the Human Rights Association and a member of the association’s prison commission, stood trial with three other lawyers and the head of a prisoners’ solidarity association on charges of PKK membership.
Treatment of Minorities
In the northwest provinces of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, the government restricts cultural and political activities, including the organizations that focus on social issues. The government also restricts these minorities from promoting their cultures and languages.
Serious tensions between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi central and provincial governments continued over control of territories lying between the mainly Kurdish- and Arab-inhabited areas in northern Iraq.
In January 2009, 14 of Iraq’s 18 governorates held provincial elections (the three governorates comprising the Kurdistan region had their elections in July; no elections were held in the disputed Kirkuk governorate).
On June 24, 2009, the Kurdistan National Assembly (the regional parliament) passed a draft regional constitution that laid claim to disputed areas, provoking outrage from central government leaders.
“Honour” killings by family members remain a threat to women and girls in Kurdish areas, as well as elsewhere in Iraq.
Female genital mutilation is practiced mainly in Kurdish areas of Iraq; reportedly 60 percent of Kurdish women have undergone this procedure, although the KRG claimed that the figures are exaggerated.
Violence against Minorities
As the conflict intensified between the Arab-dominated central government and the KRG over control of the disputed territories running across northern Iraq from the Iranian to the Syrian borders, minorities found themselves in an increasingly precarious position.
Syria’s poor human rights situation deteriorated further in 2009 and the repressive policies toward its Kurdish minority continue. Security agencies prevented political and cultural gatherings, and regularly detain and try Kurdish activists demanding increased political rights and recognition of Kurdish culture.
Arrest and Trial of Political Activists
The SSSC sentenced over 45 people in 2009 on various grounds, including membership in the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Kurdish activism, membership in unauthorized political groups, and independent criticism of the government.
Arbitrary Detention, Enforced Disappearances, and Torture
The authorities have kept silent about the fate of at least eight Kurds detained since September 2008 on suspicion of ties to a separatist Kurdish movement.
Discrimination and Repression against Kurds
Kurds, Syria’s largest non-Arab ethnic minority, remain subject to systematic discrimination, including the arbitrary denial of citizenship to an estimated 300,000 Syria-born Kurds.
Authorities suppress expressions of Kurdish identity, and prohibit the teaching of Kurdish in schools.
In March police stopped a musical event organized by a Kurdish political party in Qamishli, and security forces broke up gatherings celebrating the Kurdish New Year in Qamishli and Derbassiyeh.
Security forces detained at least nine prominent Kurdish political leaders in 2009