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“Unregistered People” in al-Hasaka Live the Torment of Being Stateless

Civilians from the city of Qamishli siting on a pavement in al-Quwatli neighborhood- 30 January 2018 (Enab Baladi)

Civilians from the city of Qamishli siting on a pavement in al-Quwatli neighborhood- 30 January 2018 (Enab Baladi)

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The “62” census has shown a great attachment to the Kurdish people’s lives in Syria, surrounding the Kurds in al-Hasaka governorate with a constant existential challenge to prove themselves as present. The census deprived them of all the Syrian citizen’s rights to education, employment and being part of the political regime that is ruling the country.  

The Kurds of al-Hasaka attribute their suffering and the prevention of their getting the rights of Syrian citizens, or at least the ability to integrate into the Syrian society to August 22, 1962, upon which a decree has been issued to bestow the Syrian nationality to some of the people in al-Hasaka, while it withdrew it from many others, to be categorized under a classification known as  “maktoumiyah,” in a reference to the “unregistered people.”

A Single Day “Unjust” Census

In August 1962, the Late Syrian President Nazim al-Kudsi issued a legislative decree that carried the number “93,” called by “al-Hasaka Census” by those who benefited from it and the “Unjust Census” by those who became stateless under it.

Back then, the Syrian government conducted a single day census of the al-Hasaka governorate’s population, according to which the people have been divided into three groups: the first owns the Syrian nationality, the second are stateless, who without any legal support have been called “Syrian foreigners,” and the third have not been mentioned in the records and were categorized, as previously mentioned under the  “maktoumiyah” title, for they failed to show any documents that proved there presence in Syria.

The decree became officially active on 5 November 1962 and persisted to the period of al-Assad family’s reign, starting with Hafez to the point when Bashar, his son, came into power.

Based on the decree, more than 400 thousand Kurdish people have been deprived of the Syrian nationality and denied all their political and civil rights, with a few exceptions in which political considerations intervened, during the reign of Hafez al-Assad.

Mohammad, 74 years old, used to have the Syrian nationality. Suddenly, he was turned into a foreigner due to the census in a time that corresponded to the end of his military service.

Mohammad Told Enab Baladi: “After 12 years as an employee in the public sector, in one of the government’s companies, I was surprised that I have been dismissed from the place I was working for because I was denied the Syrian nationality,” he continued saying, “a decision has been made by the higher echelons of government that refused my employment for being a Kurdish foreigner.”

However, after 2011, another decree has been issued that provided for granting not restoring the Syrian nationality to Kurdish foreigners, which triggered Mohammad to present all the needed identification documents to the concerned entities, which provided for the necessity to offer him a compensation for his years of service, but he was not given any sort of compensation so far, as he said.

Human Rights Activist Demanded Cancelling the “62” Census

Kurdish human rights organizations and activists consider the “62” census as unjust to many citizens who were born to Syrian parents, but who could not prove that for various reasons.

Enab Baladi interviewed the lawyer Radwan Sido, who described the exceptional legislative decree as a violation of human rights and instruments, supporting his opinion with international conventions that deny the “maktoumiyah” concept and depriving people of citizenship, which is a basic human right since birth.

For his part, Fares Osman, am member of the Kurdish “Progressive Democratic Party,” explained that some of the Kurdish people in al-Hasaka were citizens, who owned the Syrian nationality; they are born in Syria for Syrian parents.

In his interview with Enab Baladi, he said that many of the Kurdish men have completed the mandatory military service, in spite of which they were stripped of the Syrian nationality; they were also denied their basic rights of getting citizenship, even though the Syrian constitution grants a nationality to a child whose parents are not known, as he said.

“The constitution is not applied in reality, which led to the presence of citizens who have been living in Syrian for seventy years and who have been born to Syrian parents and yet have been deprived of their right to nationality,” he added.

How Did Statelessness Affect the Kurds?

According to a population census that the government of the Syrian regime have issued in 2011, the number of foreigner Kurds have reached the 400 thousand, who have been deprived of the Syrian nationality, which was followed by their denial of all their political and civil rights.

The lawyer Radwan Sido explained the effect of that deprivation on the Kurdish people, saying that they were denied the right to work, to be employed and to participate in the political life, in addition to their right to ownership, for they cannot possess homes or lands, and their houses, the ones they lived in before being stripped of the Syrian nationality, were registered as State property.

Sido added: “They were not allowed to get married unless they got a security permission; they were also prevented from traveling or sleeping in hotels.”

For his part, Fares Osman, a member of the Kurdish “Progressive Democratic Party,” summarised the dilemma of the “unregistered people,” by these people’s inability to register births, which means the presence of a whole generation of anonymous people, who have been deprived of their right to education, for the “unregistered people” were not given a preparatory or high school diplomas. They were also deprived of their right to apply to Syrian universities.

What Happened under Bashar al-Assad’s Regin?

With the break out of the Syrian revolution in 2011, a legislative decree has been issued by the Syrian presidency, that provided for granting not restoring nationality to those who are classified as “Kurdish foreigners.” There is a massive difference between “granting and restoring nationality,” according to the lawyer Sido.

Restoring nationality means giving Syrian citizens all their rights back and giving them a compensation for depriving them of the Syrian nationality, so the regime depended on granting it only, according to which Kurdish citizens enjoy the rights of Syrian citizens but without a compensation.

Fares Osman said that the legislative decree “did not include the unregistered people, for not being mentioned in the civil records,” pointing out that the Syrian regime has resorted to the previous census and did not conduct a new one, the reason why the unregistered people are still deprived of their civil rights.

Hasan Ali Osman, an unregistered Syrian Kurdish man, said that the 2011th legislative decree did not include them.

Mohammad described his dilemma, for he has five children who are not registered in the civil record and had no other identity document but a card that has been signed by the Mukhtar. He said: “We are deprived of all our civil rights and do not have the right to ownership. We also cannot sleep in hotels and have a difficulty in registering our children in schools, because they do not give them a certificate for elementary and preparatory education.”

Mohammad believes that the right to nationality has become a dream for him and for people who are stuck in the same situation. He wishes for a constitutional acknowledgment of the unregistered people’s rights, so they would have a sense of belonging and ensure a better future for their children.

As for Um Mohammad, who is a Kurdish woman, neither she or her husband are registered, said: “Is there a greater suffering? We have been living here for more than 50 years, and so far, they have not admitted our presence and have not granted us the nationality.”

“Our cause is forgotten, and none of the civil organizations or the political parties are remembering it. They have to work to restore our rights and to guarantee them in the new Syrian constitution,” she added.

Kurdish Woman’s Right to Nationality in the Syrian Constitution

Contrary to men, Syrian women are not granted the right to give their nationality to their children, which had a negative impact on the Kurdish community, according to the lawyer Radwan Sido, who pointed out that when a Kurdish woman marries a Kurdish man who has been deprived of his nationality, she remains single, unmarried, in the civil records and cannot pass her nationality to her children from this marriage.

He added: “The Kurdish society has paid the price for that law in a different manner.”

Marwa al-Husseini, a Kurdish woman who owns the Syrian nationality and married to a Kurdish man who was stripped off his Syrian nationality, told Enab Baladi about the difficulty she is facing while trying to protect her family and children, because the Syrian constitution does not bestow her the right to pass her nationality to her children.

Maraw says that she is a mother for three children while she is still registered as single in the civil records, in addition to her children’s deprivation of education. She explained that none of her children has received a certificate to attest for their preparatory or secondary education. She holds the Civil Community Organizations as responsible for this situation, for according to her they have neglected the cause of the unregistered people.

The lady called the organizations to launch campaigns to transport this class’ voice to international human rights organizations, “so the whole world would see our suffering, we the wretched and the deprived of their basic rights, the right to citizenship.”

Influential People Stripped off the Syrian Nationality

The late Syrian President Nazim al-Kudsi’s decree, that has been based on the 1962th census in al-Hasaka, affected legal and authority figures in Syria back then, the most prominent of whom was General Tawfiq Nizamuddin, Chief of General Staff in Syria, according to Lawyer Radwan Sido.

Almost all the Ibrahim Basha family members, the most influential figure among whom was one of the founders of the Constituent Assembly of the Syrian Parliament in 1928, have also been stripped of their Syrian nationality due to the decree, according to Fares Osman.

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