March 28, 2008


Jitters over Syria's Kurdish clashes (Sami Moubayed, 3/29/08, Asia Times)

Clashes took place last week in the Kurdish district of Qamishly, northeastern Syria, between Syrian security and Kurds celebrating their Nawrooz new year. Three Kurds were killed, enraging both Masoud al-Barazani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan (a former ally of Syria) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

This might explain why Talabani will not be heading his country's delegation to the upcoming Arab summit in Damascus this weekend. Barazani said, "We strongly condemn the killing of the innocent people in Qamishly. These people were just celebrating the beginning of their new year and had committed no crime," calling on the Syrians to launch an investigation into the event.

Security forces had tried to disperse a gathering of 200 people, who had lit candles and a bonfire, celebrating a holiday that is not recognized by the government. Syria has been governed by martial law since 1963, meaning no such gathering can take place without prior approval. The Kurds knew that, but went ahead with their festival, almost looking for trouble.

Syrian authorities claimed the police initially tried to disperse the demonstrators peacefully. When that failed, they resorted to force. Before that, young demonstrators had burned tires and thrown stones at riot police, enflaming the situation. A similar demonstration took place on the same day in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, attended by about a million Kurds. They, too, lit bonfires and Turkish planes hovered nearby, but did not disperse the demonstrators. In other parts of Turkey, however, the Nawrooz new year was banned - just as it had been for as long as anybody could remember - by Turkish authorities, in Hakkari, Urfa and Siirt.

Leaving the Ba'ath regime in place in Syria undermines everything else we say we believe about the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 28, 2008 10:21 AM
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