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US, EU must tackle Syria on Kurds` plight: Group

Last Updated: Thursday, November 26, 2009 - 15:32

London: Human Rights Watch urged the United States and Europe on Thursday to raise the plight of Syria`s Kurdish minority in talks with Damascus.
Pressure on Syria to reform its political system and grant rights to its Kurdish population has been easing since Western powers resumed ties with Damascus, ending years of international isolation.

"The international community, in particular the United States and the European Union, should ensure that human rights concerns, including the treatment of Kurds, are part of their discussions with Syria," the New York-based group said in a report. "Ignoring the treatment of Kurds in Syria will not make the problem go away.."

Syrian officials do not refer to the Kurdish issue in public, but President Bashar al-Assad has made clear that his priority was to preserve stability and national cohesion.

The Human Rights Watch report said the international community`s talks with Damascus have focused on Syria`s political role in the Middle East and its regional influence, with a "lack of interest" about discussing the Kurdish issue.

Syrian authorities "have maintained a harsh policy of increased repression" against the Kurds despite the rapprochement with the West, it said.

Kurds make up about 10 percent of Syria`s population, and Turkey, Iran and Iraq also have Kurdish minorities.

The report, entitled ‘Group denial, repression of Kurdish political and cultural rights in Syria,’ said Syria`s treatment of its Kurdish minority also targeted the celebration of their ethnic identity.

"The repression is part of the Syrian government`s broader suppression of any form of political dissent, but it also presents certain distinguishing features, such as the repression of cultural gatherings because the government perceives Kurdish identity as a threat," it said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, November 26, 2009 - 15:32

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