Report “Systematic Housing and Land Rights Violations against Syrian Kurds”



This week, Habitat International Coalition’s Housing and Land Rights Network (HIC-HLRN) has submitted its formal contribution on the Syrian Arab Republic to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the UN Human Rights Council. The country is scheduled to begin this comprehensive peer review of human rights compliance during the Council’s 12th UPR Working Group session, 3–14 October 2011, at the United Nations/Geneva. Fifteen other UN member states take their turn under the UPR at the same time.

The HIC-HLRN report focuses on Syria’s performance within the norms pertaining to the human rights to adequate standard of living and adequate housing, including equitable land access and use. The Network’s review focuses on the principle forms of abuse, forming a pattern of violations, particularly against ethnic Kurdish Syrians. That community, concentrated in the northern al-Hasaka Governorate has been subject to incremental dispossession and eviction from their lands since the early years of Syria’s independence. However, the practice has become institutionalized with the rise of ethnocentric Arab nationalism that has dominated the ruling Ba`th Party program over 48 years since the Ba`thist coup d’état of 1963.


The pattern of land deprivation carried out against Kurds in Syria is institutional in nature, arising from constructed categories of civil status that effectively strip many thousands of Kurdish Syrians of their citizenship and nationality rights and create an entire class of stateless persons ineligible for a bundle of economic, social and cultural rights recognized for other Syrian citizens. Targeting Kurds for dispossession is carried out under subtly worded legal and policy instruments, most-recently exemplified by Decrees No. 49 and 59 (2008). Their implementation demonstrates that Kurdish Syrians are the particular targets. These and restrictive measures on choice of residence in the country as of 2011 follow the recent wave of drought-induced rural migration from rural northern Syria due to climate change that has left 160 mostly Kurdish villages abandoned, while their former residents face a ban on legal tenure outside of their “designated area.

HIC-HLRN’s Middle East/North Africa Coordinator Joseph Schechla said today: “The review focused on housing and land rights subject to this type of historic and institutionalized discrimination clarifies some of the deep flaws in modern Syrian statecraft.” He added that “ideologically driven discrimination, in this case, shows how corresponding human rights treaty violations deepen poverty and deprivation, but their critical review should guide urgently needed reforms.”

To download the report, please click here.