Bid to bring calm fails: 11 Kurds killed in Syria clashes
Some eleven people were killed in clashes between Arabs and Kurds in northern Syria Tuesday.
The incident took place after at least 14 Kurds, including three children, were killed in two days of clashes over the weekend with police in the town of Qameshli, Kurdish Syrian representatives reported.
Violence broke out on Friday at a premier league football match in Qameshli. Dozens of people sustained bullet wounds as thousands of Kurds gathered to protest against the police deaths Friday.
In an effort to bring calm to the situation, arrests were conducted by the Syrian authorities against the Kurds living. This is despite several meetings between Syrian officials and the Kurdish leadership in the area. Kurdish sources have asserted to Al Bawaba that the riots have now moved on to other Syrian cities including Aleppo, Damascus, and Hasakeh.
Speaking to Al Bawaba, Abdul Hamid Darwish, secretary of the Kurdish Liberal Party described the meeting with the official Syrian delegation as "refreshing".
“The Kurdish leadership had demanded a thorough investigation into the riots, which is to be conducted by a panel not present at the time of the incident…the members should not be from the northern parts of Syria,” he added.
“Previously, there was a Syrian president who had never allowed any of Syria’s Baathist to speak out in favor of the [Baathist] regime in Iraq. In the past few years, this has changed and we have been hearing more about the toppled Iraqi regime and how it compared to the one in Syria…I think this issue help trigger a grassroots conviction that it would be easy to riot,” Darwish stated.
The Syrians share the same political ideology [Baathism] with Iraq’s toppled regime, yet both were applied differently. Throughout Hafez Assad’s iron-clad tenure in Syria, people were not allowed to compare their form of Baathism with that in Iraq - anyone who spoke up in favor of the Iraqi regime was taken into custody indefinitely. There has been an undeliberate phasing of this rule since his son Bashar took over.
“The panel should identify those that helped ignite the riot and bring to justice those responsible for the fourteen that died in the incident,” added Darwish.
On a different note, according to informed Kurdish sources, the actual death toll may have been close to fifty, yet no official confirmation has been made by the Syrian authorities.
Preferring to speak anonymously, media sources close to the incident revealed to Al Bawaba that the Syrian authorities have rushed Sunday evening into the Zorba suburb in the Dumar area east of Damascus and arrested many of the male Kurds living there. The suburb - also known as Wadi Al Masharee’ - is inhabited by a Kurdish majority.
The same sources also reported to Al Bawaba that the city of Qamishli is now a virtual ‘ghost town’.
“A total curfew has been imposed – anyone who dares walk in the streets is humiliated by the Syrian authorities,” the sources said.
Darwish denied any Turkish presence in the city of Qamishli, however he did say that “gun fire was indeed heard coming from the Turkish border city of Dirbassiyah…the main purpose of the gunfire was probably an attempt on the Turk’s part to stimulate the Kurds into causing more turmoil.”
Kurds were seen burning government buildings and smashing statues of the late Syrian president Hafez Assad – something reminiscent of what was observed in Baghdad following the ouster of Saddam’s regime. Meanwhile, Arab citizens have retaliated by burning down many Kurdish-owned shops after stealing their contents.
Eye witnesses also told Al Bawaba that Kurds were seen lowering the Syrian flag while raising the Turkish one instead - hence antagonizing the Syrians.
Local activist Misha’l Tammo spoke openly to Al Bawaba about the ‘relentless’ efforts being exercised by the Syrian authorities to contain the crisis. “Kurds, Arabs and Christians are working together to contain the crisis…the situation is deteriorating daily and taking more serious political dimensions. Our efforts have not yet been successful, although there has been encouraging signs. Ultimately, any solution will have to be respected and enforced by the Syrian government.”
Tammo also revealed to Al Bawaba that the Syrian authorities have begun distributing arms to the Arab population, which he describes as a catastrophe.
“This is a disaster, and we demand that those responsible for this escalation be brought to justice. The situation is being exacerbated and we have no choice but to ask all parties to show the maximum degree of self-restraint. Kurds and Arabs have to coexist with each other and so we need to overcome this crisis if we want a safer future for generations to come.” Tammo concluded.
The official state-owned daily - Al Baath - had accused several groups of chanting slogans against national unity. These acts, the daily added, helped in igniting the riots that took place in Qamishli last Friday. The daily also considered the riots as an attempt intended to add more international pressure [for reform] on the Syrian leadership.
Al Hasakeh’s (the Syrian province to which the town of Qamishli belongs to) deputy governor, Khaled Khudair, has openly accused the Kurdish political groups in the area of provoking their constituents into rioting.
“The parties that have urged such people to commit these acts of disturbance have been influenced by internal and external forces. The Kurdish residents are just pawns in this larger plan,” Khudair added.
In the past, the Kurds along with several human rights groups have accused the Syrian government of ignoring the Kurdish plight including their basic human rights.
The Kurdish community in Syria is estimated at 2 million, or twelve percent of a Syrian population that now exceeds 17 million. The Syrian government does not view the Kurds in the same way the Turks do (a disregarded minority), but rather consider them as equal citizens with equal rights. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)