Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Anger Over Arabic-Only Shop Names

17-Jun-09
By IWPR


An official decision to force all shop owners in the eastern province of Hasaka to give Arabic names to their businesses will create tension in the area, said a June 15 op-ed in the pro-government website, all4Syria.



The article's author, Hasan Baro, said that an official committee from the internal trade department ordered all traders who use non-Arabic names for their shops to modify them before June 15 or face legal action.



The Hasaka area is home to many non-Arab-speaking ethnic groups – including Kurds, Armenians and Assyrians – who tend to label their shops after the names of their villages, cities, relatives and idols, according to Baro.



The author argued that several ethnic and religious communities live in Syria, and asked the government whether it considered Kurds or Armenians to be second or third-class citizens.



"Why do we [insist] that Israel [should] change the names of certain places in Jerusalem or other Palestinian cities, while we do the same [thing] in our own country and impose Arabic names on Syrian citizens?" he asked.



The author pressed the authorities not to inflict more problems on the area, which has already suffered from drought, poverty and unemployment, he said.

He concluded that the decision to impose Arabic names only would create hostility among Syrians.