Defend International condemns the killing of three Kurdish youth by Syrian security forces in the city of Ar-raqqah during the 2010 celebrations of Newroz.
The Syrian government must stop the cycle of violence perpetrated by members of the security forces who are supposed to be protecting ALL civilians.
Photo above is of the Kurdish youth, Mohammed Omar, who was killed by Syrian security forces on 21 March 2010
Syria: Excessive Use of Force by the Security Forces during Newroz Festivities
Oslo – Norway, March 23, 2010. Defend International condemns the killing of three Kurdish youth by Syrian security forces in the city of Ar-raqqah during the 2010 celebrations of Newroz, the Kurdish New Year. The Syrian government must stop the cycle of violence perpetrated by members of the security forces who are supposed to be protecting ALL civilians. We demand a thorough, empirical investigation of the use of excessive force against the celebrators.
Defend International (DI) has received with great concern information from several reliable sources regarding the excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against Kurdish celebrators in the city of Ar-raqqah located about 160 km east of Aleppo, on 21 March 2010, resulting in the death of three youth, over 41 injured, family members detained, and hundreds of people poisoned by tear gas.
During this year’s Newroz celebrations, the Syrian security forces fired live ammunition at the peaceful crowd, reportedly resulting in a number of deaths and injuries among civilians. Family members are prohibited from moving freely, and everyone asking for the whereabouts of their injured or missing relatives has been arrested. The bodies have been kept by the authorities and not returned to families. This horrific event coincided with many festivities held worldwide this year in honor of the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Newroz as an ancient celebration. Newroz has been officially added to the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity .
Newroz represents the first day of spring on the solar calendar, and symbolizes hope, renewal, unity, change and life in harmony with nature. According to the Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the UN, adding Newroz to the UNESCO list will encourage inter- and intracultural dialogue and mutual respect among cultures, while strengthening the transmission of the element to future generations . However, the Syrian authorities’ recent actions seem to reflect a continuous effort to discourage dialogue and violate fundamental human rights, including the right to life.
DI Views and Demands
The International Secretariat of DI has followed the situation of the Kurds in Syria. The Kurds have been victims of discrimination because of their ethnic origin. Over the years we have been alarmed by allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, detainees or persons in police custody, especially before presenting them before a judge. DI wishes to recall that according to international rules, any statement which is established to have been made as result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings. In addition independent institutions should carry out unannounced and unrestricted visits to all detention centers in Syria.
Defend International demands a thorough and independent investigation of the recent excessive use of force against the Kurdish celebrators to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law in accordance with international legal standards. DI is worried that the killings may have been deliberate and they are a result of the excessive use of force.
DI calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to act without delay to address the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Syria. DI urges all governments to take necessary measures to remind the Syrian government that it has a responsibility to ensure the protection of human rights and dignity of all individuals in Syria.
“We call for an end to the unconscionable use of force against unarmed civilians,” Defend International co-founder Dr Widad said. “The Syrian government is obliged not only to protect the physical and mental health of its own citizens, but to save the lives of civilians and to refrain from inflicting inhuman and degrading treatment which cannot be allowed under any circumstances. We view the present situation, which is created by Syria’s aggressive behavior as completely unacceptable. The Syrian authorities are accountable for their actions. There is a real need to restore basic respect for human life.”
DI urges the Syrian authorities to release all civilians immediately and unconditionally in the absence of valid legal charges. Yet, if legitimate charges exist, the accused should be brought before a competent and impartial tribunal without delay.
DI further recalls that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a state party, prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and sets out the international procedures to guarantee the right to a fair trial.
Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria making up approximately 10% of the country’s population . According to Refugees International, there are about 300,000 stateless Kurds in Syria who are denied basic civil rights .
Despite the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Newroz as an element of the International Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Syrian authorities do not accept Newroz being celebrated by its Kurdish minority. There is a history of the authorities’ excessive use of force against the Kurds during Newroz festivities. In March 1986, during such festivities, several people were killed and others were injured. In March 2004, hundreds of Kurds were reportedly arrested by security forces and dozens were killed following clashes at a football match in Qamishli. Similarly, the use of excessive force was the authorities’ answer to the Kurds for celebrating Newroz in 2008, and 2010.