Human Rights Watch released a 63-page report today outlining in detail the persecution of Kurds in Syria. It is a comprehensive account of harassment, arrests, and oppression of the Kurdish population in Syria. It provides an excellent historical overview as well.
However, for those of us who follow events there, this report ‘Group Denial’ does not provide anything new. In fact, I’ve written about much of this on my blog…most recently (just ten days ago) with a post about Kurdish politics in Syria. So we know of the abuses. We know what the international standards are that Syria ignores. We hear the silence in the media.
Yes, the report is well-written, revealing, and insightful. Yes, it is important to keep focusing attention on issues of human rights abuses. But I am sceptical. I am cynical. Do these reports really accomplish anything?
What I find terribly frustrating about reports such as this one is that they make recommendations to the offending government about redressing the wrongs they have committed. Is Damascus going to actually sit down and ponder HRW’s recommendations? Absolutely not.
And I also seriously doubt that Washington will take any recommendations to heart. The report says that there has been international silence on the Kurdish issue in Syria because other governments are more focused on regional politics. And I believe that’s the way it will continue. Washington will look the other way on the Kurdish issues in favour of deals with Damascus over the war on terror, negotiations with Israel, and Syria’s relationship with Iran, just to name a few. Washington will not press Damascus on the Kurds if it means forfeiting gains on the various geopolitical fronts.
Obama publicly broached the subject of human rights on his recent visit to China. Will he ever fly Air Force One to Damascus and do the same thing there? Last August Bashar al-Assad invited Obama to Syria. Obama had promised a meeting with the Syrian leader in his first year in office. Is there a US-Syrian summit in the offing that would have the Kurdish issue on the agenda? Highly doubtful. Will US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make a surprise trip to Damascus to rebuke the Syrians for their treatment of the Kurds? Probably not.
What about Europe? Well, let’s look at one example. Back in 2004 Damascus and the EU drew up a partnership agreement. Many countries in the EU were against signing the agreement at that time citing human rights concerns in Syria. Between 2004 and 2009 human rights abuses have intensified and Kurds in Syria are worse off than they were before. So why then did the EU announce last month that it was ready to sign the Syrian-European Partnership Agreement? What changed?
Al-Assad had said about the agreement, ‘No interference in Syria’s internal affairs will be accepted under any name.’ So it seems the EU has backed off. But now it is Syria’s turn to snub the Europeans saying it needs more time to consider the agreement’s impact on the Syrian economy.
I want to thank HRW for putting this report together. It’s not that I don’t appreciate efforts to bring these issues to the table. No, just the opposite is true. We need to keep working and do whatever we can to bring attention to the situation there. So read the report. Educate yourself. Tell others about it. Re-tweet it if you see it. Post it on your blog. Write an op-ed piece in your local newspaper. Don’t be silent.
Download the full report here from the HRW website.