One of the most serious issues in Syria concerns the registration of Kurdish people in Hassaka province. The Kurdish people known as ‘Maktoumeen’ are deprived of their right to citizenship, and this lack of status has been passed on through the generations by grandfathers and fathers to the present day. People who have Maktoumeen status are denied their basic human rights.
This situation came about because was an exceptional census in the province of Hassaka in 1962, as a result of which tens of thousands of Kurdish families were stripped of their Syrian nationality. Most of these people were registered at the census time by special civil registration departments as ‘Ajanib’ from Hassaka province. The others were registered as ‘Maktoumeen’, and they were given no identity documents.
The numbers of Maktoumeen has regularly increased since the census of 1962 as a result of this status being passed on to the next generation. A child of a Maktoumeen Kurdish man will always be Maktoumeen, whether the mother has Syrian citizenship or not.
We will not discuss the general suffering experienced by these Maktoumi people in this short article, but will concentrate on a specific issue that we believe is particularly significant and serious, namely, the deprivation of the opportunity to receive and continue in education.
The authorities are instructed to treat Ajanib as Syrian citizens in all their transactions. The Syrian Constitution of 1973 stipulated that the State guarantees the right to education to all its citizens, and that all Syrian citizens are equal before the law in rights and obligations. Charters, treaties and international laws have been signed and agreed by successive governments in Syria which also commit the country to ensuring the rights of everyone to education, including higher education, and which emphasise the right of everyone to enjoy all rights and freedoms contained in them. There should be no discrimination of any kind, especially that based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status and so on. In practice, the laws and decrees, procedures and exceptional orders that are issued from time to time from one authority or another are racist and chauvinistic.
In the province of Hassaka, there is clear evidence that these commitments have been broken as there is a policy of racist discrimination that is mainly directed at Kurdish citizens who have been deprived of their Syrian nationality under the census in 1962. This in particular constitutes a flagrant violation of these people’s rights and fundamental freedoms.
We will weigh one of these racist circulars on the scales of justice as it deprives Kurdish Maktoumeen people of the right to study and follow-up higher educational opportunities. This is a circular issued by the Director of Education in Hassaka, no. 4623 / 4 SA of 17 September 2008, that orders heads of schools in basic and secondary education that they must not provide Maktoumeen students with any document stamped using the seal of the school, or they will bear the penalty of legal liability.
As a result of this unjust and unfair rule, Kurdish Maktoumeen students who had at least a basic education and who wish to apply for a certificate in secondary education or home study cannot demonstrate that they have completed the necessary processes to apply for these examinations. The Department of Examinations and Education Directorate in the province of Hassaka, makes it a requirement that students must demonstrate a sequence of study with the required documents, and if Maktoumeen students who have a basic education through the state school have worked towards a secondary school certificate and succeeded in their studies they are nevertheless deprived of the necessary document to show that they have completed this stage because they cannot show that they have Syrian citizenship or are Ajanib. This is directly linked to the state policy against Kurds which does not allow someone to change their status. These people have no prospect of going to university and this is compounded by the other general suffering of those deprived of their Syrian nationality.
We have demonstrated in what we have said that the system is unfair and it is in fact one of the many facets of the policy of discrimination and national oppression practiced against the Kurdish people in Syria. It is contrary to Syrian national and international laws, and is incompatible with this current era of humanity, and the spread of the principles of democracy and pluralism, and respect for human rights. It is not acceptable in this country, and there is an urgent need to confront all these challenges for the future.
Therefore there is a real need to overcome this desperate situation and to end the injustice, oppression and persecution of the Kurdish people in Syria, to abolish laws and exceptional procedures that apply to Kurds, and to restore citizenship to those who have been deprived of it, thereby removing the effects of poor results and negative outcomes, and the adverse effects of the unjust special census in the province of Hasakah in 1962 that gave rise to Kurdish Maktoumeen status. These students need to be allowed to pursue their studies and to achieve educationally.
The first step will be to restore rights to these people, to work by the principles of justice and equality for all citizens, and to commit to the concept of true citizenship. The second step will be to contribute to promoting Syria in the international community. The third step will be to work in harmony with international developments that promote democracy and respect for human rights, which leads fourthly and finally to the development of Syria and the growth and prosperity in all areas of life.
by Mustafa Osso, a lawyer and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Kurdish organization for the defence of human rights and public freedoms in Syria – DAD
19 January 2010