In a presidential decree issued today and announced on the official Syrian news agency, SANA, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad granted citizenship to some 300,000 Kurds from the Hasakeh region of the northeast.
In 1962 the Syrian government carried out a special census in the Jazirah region and revoked the citizenship of some 120,000 Kurds who could not prove that they had been resident in the country since 1945. Today, an estimated 225,000 Kurds in Syria are classified as non-citizen foreigners (ajanib) on their identity cards and cannot vote, own property, or obtain government jobs (but are not, however, exempt from obligatory military service). In addition, some 75,000 Kurds are not officially acknowledged at all and have no identity cards. The so-called maktoumeen (unregistered) cannot even receive treatment in state hospitals or obtain marriage certificates.
These ‘foreigners’ and their descendents, who have been denied citizenship and basic human rights for 50 years, will now become Syrian citizens. Last week al-Assad had announced the formation of a committee to look into the issue of citizenship for this group.
Kurdish leader Habib Ibrahim said that Syria’s Kurds would continue a non-violent struggle for civic rights and democracy in spite of the decree. ‘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,’ he said.