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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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KHRP Calls for State Discrimination against Minorities to Stop

Today, on International Human Rights Day, KHRP calls on the historic discrimination committed against minorities in the Kurdish regions to stop. It also asks that the international community act by urging the governments responsible to recognise the existence of its Kurdish ethnic and other minorities, and for Turkey and Syria, to guarantee Kurdish political and cultural rights in their constitutions.

Syrian Kurds make up the country’s largest non-Arab ethnic minority, yet the State has denied citizenship to at least 140,000 Syrian-born Kurds, who are denied equal access to socio-economic rights. As in Turkey, Kurdish identity has been systematically assailed, with the suppression of Kurdish language in schools, the refusal to register children with Kurdish names, the prohibition of Kurdish language material, and the removal of Kurdish place names.

Across the Kurdish regions, freedom of expression and association remain tightly controlled, and Kurdish activists are particularly vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and detention. Throughout this year, KHRP has sent a series of urgent action appeals to various UN Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs to request their intervention with the Iranian and Syrian authorities on behalf of activists who have been forcibly disappeared or detained, or are at risk of being tortured or executed. This includes a series of appeals to shine a light on the disturbing pattern of arbitrary arrests developing against Kurdish women, and the torture and ill-treatment they face in detention.

Just last month, KHRP also submitted a stakeholder report outlining discriminatory practices towards minorities and restrictions of their cultural and language rights in Turkey, to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group. Despite the government’s proposals to develop a more pluralist and libertarian constitution as announced as part of its ‘Democratic Initiative’ early last month, the first three articles— which have effectively underpinned the systematic disregard of the linguistic and cultural rights of the country’s estimated 20 million Kurds (around 23 per cent of the total population) and other minority groups— are to remain sacrosanct. By maintaining existing provisions concerning the national anthem, the official language and the indivisible nature of the Turkish state, any newly conceived of constitution will maintain the much criticised and extremely narrow official definition of minorities, which fails to recognise other ethnic groups.

‘Through our consistent use of a variety of human rights tools, we have persevered in bringing discrimination against Kurds and non-Kurds living in the Kurdish regions to the fore’, said Chief Executive, Kerim Yildiz. ‘With the help of the international community, these governments must be encouraged to take measures to fully recognise the fundamental rights of their ethnic, religious or other minorities. They must also bring their national legislation in line with their obligations under international law and protect the rights to free speech and cultural and linguistic integrity within their borders.’