Syria's Response to the Emergence of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)

By Michael M. Gunter
Submitted to Session P2308 (Navigating the Middle East Minefields: Regional Responses to the Emergence of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), 2010 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Approximately 1.5 million Kurds live in Syria, a much smaller number than in Turkey, Iran, or Iraq. Furthermore, the Kurds in Syria live in three non-contiguous areas and, therefore, historically have been much less successfully organized and developed than in the other three states. Nevertheless, the Kurds in Syria constitute the largest minority in Syria. For many years the repressive Syrian governments of the Assads have sought to control their Kurdish minority by various oppressive means including an Arab belt between its Kurds and those living in neighboring Turkey and Iraq. Some Kurds have also been denied Syrian citizenship (the so-called ajanib), while others have been stripped of their basic civil liberties (the so-called maktoumeen). However, the emergence of the KRG has helped begin to change this situation. For example, within days of becoming the president of the KRG in June 2005, Massoud Barzani demanded that the Syrian Kurds be granted their rights peacefully. This call has helped galvanize the Kurds in Syria into creating new pro-Kurdish organizations and taking a more active role in demanding changes to their previous situation. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the specific steps that have been taken by the Kurds in Syria in response to the next-door model of the KRG and what has been the response of the Syrian government. To do so, this paper will employ objective content analysis of KRG documents as well as scholarly and media articles from many of the various actors in Syria.