Mohammed Talib Hilal, author of the infamous 1963 Arabisation booklet ‘A Study of the Jazira Province from National, Social and Political Aspects,’ died on Wednesday (09 Feb) at the age of 80. Hilal’s ‘security report’ is one of the most racist documents ever produced by a Ba’ath party official. The report, published on 12 November 1963, contained a 12-point plan that was meant as a guide to action and a source of inspiration in the management of the Kurdish issue in Syria.
The twelve points of his plan, briefly, were:
1) the displacement of Kurds from their lands to the interior
2) the denial of education
3) the handing over of ‘wanted’ Kurds to Turkey
4) the denial of employment possibilities
5) an anti-Kurdish propaganda campaign
6) deportation of Kurdish ‘ulama (clerics) who would be replaced by Arabs
7) implementation of a ‘divide-and-rule’ policy against the Kurds
8) the colonisation of Kurdish lands by Arabs
9) the militarisation of the ‘northern Arab belt’ and the deportation of Kurds from this area
10) the creation of ‘collective farms’ for the new Arab settlers
11) the denial of the right to vote or hold office to anyone lacking knowledge of Arabic
12) the denial of citizenship to any non-Arab wishing to live in the area
Hilal’s plan was adopted in 1965 by the government and the Ba’ath Syrian Regional leadership. When the report became public in 1968 the government denied that it was an official government opinion and tried to assure to public that it was only Hilal’s personal opinion.
Hilal was the head of internal security in Hasakeh at the time. He said Kurds were violent by nature and destructive and described Kurdish as an ‘unintelligible language which was used to conceal treason and separatist plotting.’ He prescribed the total denial of Kurdish linguistic rights saying that the ‘Arabisation of education alone would not achieve full culture assimilation’ of the Kurds.
Additionally, Hilal wished to create tension within Kurdish communities by suggesting that ‘some members [of the Kurdish community] were of Arab lineage.’ The plan for the anti-Kurdish campaign was ‘to condition [the Arabs] against the Kurds, then to undermine the situation of the latter and sow in the midst the seeds of distress and insecurity.’
An excerpt of the report shows the racist attitude towards the Kurdish population in Syria:
The bells of Jazira sound the alarm and call on the Arab conscience to save this region, to purify it of all this scum, the dregs of history unit, as befits its geographical situation, it can offer up its revenues and riches, along with those of the other provinces of this Arab territory… The Kurdish question, now that the Kurds are organising themselves, is simply a malignant tumour which has developed and been developed in a part of the body of the Arab nation. The only remedy which we can properly apply thereto is excision.
The Arab Belt policy was adopted, implemented and later abandoned by Hafez al-Asad in 1976. But remnants of Hilal’s ideologies are still seen today. The most recent example was the implementation of Decree 49, which requires state approval for the sale and lease of land in all border regions of Syria.
موت المجرم عراب السياسة الشوفينية بحق الكرد في سوريا محمد طلب هلال Birati, 12 February 2011.
الإعلان عن موت علي كيمياوي سوريا Sawt al-Iraq, 12 February 2011.
McDowall, David (2007). A Modern History of the Kurds, 3rd ed. I.B. Tauris, London.
Paul, James A. (1990). Human rights in Syria. Middle East Watch.
Tejel, Jordi (2009). Syria’s Kurds: History, Politics, and Society. Routledge, London.
Yildiz, Kerim and Georgina Fryer (2004). The Kurds: Culture and Language Rights. Kurdish Human Rights Project, London.