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Kurdish Killings Widely Condemned

(01-Apr-08)
By IWPR
Syrian human rights and civil society organisations have condemned the killing of three Kurdish men by security forces in the northeastern area of Qamishli.



The three men died and at least five were injured when police open fire as hundreds of Kurds were celebrating their traditional new year or Nawrooz on March 20.



Several Syrian human rights organisations condemned the killings and demanded an investigation. The opposition Damascus Declaration and the National Salvation Front called the killings a “grotesque crime”.



“The Syrian authorities are accountable for what happened, and for what will happen in the future,” the Syrian Human Rights Committee said in a statement.



Witnesses said security forces used water hoses and then tear gas to disperse Kurdish celebrators dancing around a fire near Dawar al-Hilalaya in the western part of Qamishli, a Kurdish area of the country. The Syrian Human Rights Monitor reported that Kurdish youths were arguing with security forces.



Later, according to eyewitnesses, shots were fired at the crowd from two vehicles, a white Mitsubishi and a Jeep belonging to the security forces. Mohammad Yahya Khalil, 35, and Mohammad Zaki Ramadhan, 25, were killed at the scene. Faruq Mohammad Mahmood, 18, died later from his wounds at the Frman hospital in Qamishli.



At least five people were injured, and several people were arrested.



“I was really hurt when I heard my son had been injured,” Ibrahim al-Yousif, a Kurdish activist and father of one of the wounded. He told IWPR that the hospital where his son was being treated was surrounded by security forces. His son Karam is now recovering at home.



Yousif described the incident as “entirely reprehensible”, and asked human rights groups to “investigate this event and bring those responsible to trial”.



The New York-based group Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government to allow an independent investigation into the incident.



The government has not responded to this demand, or indeed to any of the criticism coming from Syrian and international human rights groups. The US State Department condemned the killings on March 28.



Kurdish political groups in Syria also expressed concern, with one calling the incident part of a systematic plan pursued by the Syrian government, directed “against the very existence of the Kurdish people”.



Mashal al-Yamu, spokesman for the Lebanon-based Future Kurdish Current in Syria, said, “The repressive regime is undergoing political and economic crises locally, regionally, and internationally. It is not surprising that the regime targets Kurdish people, because they are active.”



Many Syrian Kurds remember March 20, 1986, when security forces opened fire during Nawrooz celebrations and killed a man.



Nawrooz is not recognised as an official holiday in Syria. Following the 1986 incident, the Syrian government declared that March 20 would henceforth be Mothers’ Day.



In 2004, 30 Kurds were killed in riots and demonstrations following a football game in Qamishli.



IWPR sources say Kurds fear the authorities may target their community again.



(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country.)

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