Syrian soldier 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Syrian regime is torturing the country's Kurdish minority and is planning an ethnic cleansing in the Kurdish region, a Kurdish opposition group says.
Syria's plan to move 10,000 troops into the country's Kurdish region could mark a dangerous turn in the attitude towards this ethnic minority, Sherko 'Abbas, president of the United States-based Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria told The Media Line.
Celebrations of the Kurdish Nowruz spring festival were marred this week in Syria when clashes broke out between security forces and Kurds. Three Kurds were killed and dozens were wounded.
In addition, at least two people were killed in Turkey in Nowruz clashes between Kurds and riot police.
For some time the Syrians have been accusing the Kurds of treason and alliances with the Americans and with the Israelis, 'Abbas said.
"This is an excuse for them to move troops into the Kurdish region and try to quell any rebellion or uprising there. They're trying to bring in the fear factor that they lost in the Kurdish region."
Reports suggest Damascus has deployed some 10,000 Syrian troops into five cities in the country's northern Kurdish-dominated region.
Syria has around 300,000 Kurds who are considered stateless foreigners, 'Abbas said, and are being oppressed in the framework of what he called Syria's "Arabization policy."
Both Syria and Turkey are concerned that the relative success of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq is emboldening their own Kurdish minorities and pushing them to seek independence.
"We're not asking to separate from Syria. We want a democracy in Syria where peace, prosperity and democracy will be the point in the Middle East," 'Abba said. "It's time to declare the Kurdish region as a protected zone or a no-fly zone, where the regime cannot kill innocent people. That region can try to spread democracy into Syria."
Kurds are a non-Arab ethnic group numbering between 25 and 30 million people, although some put it to closer to 40 million. They inhabit a mountainous region known as Kurdistan, spanning northwest Iran, northeast Iraq, east Turkey, northeast Syria and a small community in Armenia.
They are predominantly, but not all, Sunni Muslims. The Kurds constitute a minority in all these countries and have been oppressed, to varying degrees, in all areas.
Between eight and 10 percent of the Syrian population is Kurdish.
Ahmad Muhammad Munir, a member of Syria's parliamentary National Security Committee, vociferously denied accusations of ethnic cleansing.
"I call on all the international news agencies and human rights organizations to visit any region in Syria and to see the reality on the ground. There is no ethnic cleansing. There were some disturbances caused by groups that infiltrated from outside to cause chaos in this area," he told The Media Line.
Munir said the reports of 10,000 security personnel being sent into the area were unfounded. He said no more than 150 policemen were routinely deployed into the area to quell riots that began when tires were set alight during the Nowruz festivities.
"The Kurds are part of the Syrian-Arab fabric," he said, but added that there were "collaborators" from outside who wanted to carry out hawkish policies.