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Arab belt difficult to undo in Kurdish areas of Syria

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Arab belt difficult to undo in Kurdish areas of Syria

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jun 25, 2019 2:11 am

Arab belt difficult to undo in Kurdish areas of Syria

Kurdish village where Arabs were relocated to during the 1970s as part of the establishment of an "Arab belt" to lessen Kurdish presence

More than half a century has passed since the systematic Arabization of Kurds in Syria but its impact is still effective as those Arabs who were moved to Kurdish areas still live in these areas. Both Arabs and Kurds consider themselves victims of Syrian regimes.

The Syrian government resettled an estimated 4,000 Arab families to Kurdish areas in Syria after their lands were immersed by the construction of Tabqa dam on the Euphrates river in 1975, according to a 2009 report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Arab families were colloquially referred to as the ‘submerged Arabs’ as they were displaced on the grounds that their original lands would be flooded in order to construct a dam.

The families were given (Kurdish) land by the Syrian government and told to resettle villages in northern Syria, creating a band of territory or a "belt" to separate Kurds in northern Syria from Kurds over the border in southern Turkey.

One of these ‘submerged Arabs’, Abu Kifah, originally from a village in Raqqa, was resettled to the Kurdish village of Umm al-Rabii, in Hasakah province, where he still resides with his family until today.

Abu Kifah explained that the land was distributed among the people who were displaced from Aleppo and Raqqa, with each family receiving nearly 200 dunams of land.

“We received 200 dunams in Amuda [the region Umm al-Rabii village is in], and moved there in 1974-5”, he said.

“We were displaced forcibly. Had the dams not been built there and our villages not flooded, no one would have migrated”, Abu Kifah told Rudaw.

Abu Kifah lives in peace in northern Syria or what is known by Kurds as Rojava but he fears he and his family will be displaced yet again.

His son greeted Rudaw’s reporter, Hazhar Saeed in Kurdish, showing the influence of the Kurds still living in a village, whose name is referred to only in Arabic.

Yahya Salih, another Arab villager, told Rudaw that they were told to choose any village they wanted, but they didn't want to relocate.

“The government brought us here and gave us lands to establish the Arabic belt, " said Salih.

“We feel guilty and but there was nothing else we could do".

In 1967, some Kurdish villagers resisted against the Syrian government’s decision to move Arabs to these areas, resulting in an attack by the government which took away about 12,000 dunams of Kurdish land from them by force and arrested tens of Kurds.

Some Kurds were forced to leave their villages while others remained, but were forced to give up dunams of their lands to Arab families.

Baba Sheikhmous recounted when his land was “raided” by then-President Hafez al-Assad’s regime forces.

“They raided us at four o’clock in the morning. We were driven out by the army, who entered in armored vehicles. They attacked us and arrested people from 14-year old youth to 70-year old elders,” he told Rudaw.

Abu Kifah said he misses his home in Raqqa but his children and grandchildren are accustomed to the Kurdish village as they were born and raised there without seeing their parents’ lands.

“Of course, we miss our region [in Raqqa] as we were born there and we belong there. However, we have been here [Um al-Rabii] for 45 years and our children and grandchildren were born here.”

Multiple reports by the HRW and other human rights groups have touched on the misery of Kurds in Syria at the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his father since the 1970s.

A 1996 report by HRW said that Kurds have been “arbitrarily denied the right to Syrian nationality in violation of international law. These Kurds, who have no claim to a nationality other than Syrian, are literally trapped in Syria: not only are they treated in a discriminatory fashion in the land of their birth, but also they do not have the option of relocating to another country because they lack passports or other internationally recognized travel documents.”

Baba Sheikhmous added that after they left prison in the 1970s, they returned to their village and found out that the vast majority of their land had been given to the newcomer Arabs.

He still lives in his house but no longer has ownership over dunams of land used by Arabs for farming. He made a will to his children and grandchildren.

“I ask my children and grandchildren to take back what has been taken away from us,” he said.

Arabs steal Kurdish land - Turks steal Kurdish land

Kurds should UNITE and demand the return of their land
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Arab belt difficult to undo in Kurdish areas of Syria



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