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Istanbul/Damascus: »National Rescue Conference« reveals conflicts over rights of Kurds and relationship between religion and state

KURDWATCH, July 20, 2011—The »National Rescue Conference«, a meeting of parts of the Syrian opposition, took place on July 16, 2011 in Istanbul under the motto »for a civil, democratic, and diverse Syria«. Originally, it was planned that the conference would have a simultaneous counterpart in Damascus. The event was cancelled, however, after fifteen anti-regime demonstrators were killed near the location of the venue on July 15, 2011. On the Kurdish side, the Kurdish Future Movement in Syria was represented by speaker Mishʿal at-Tammu in the preparation committee for Syria. The other Kurdish parties declined to participate in Damascus because, according to Salih Gedo, member of the politburo of the Kurdish Left Party in Syria, they were not represented on the preparation committee. Nor did any party members take part in the Istanbul conference, though a few independent Kurds in exile did. They left the event shortly after the beginning however, when it was discovered the rights of Kurds would not be considered.
Additionally, on July 16, 2011, Mishʿal at-Tammu announced the withdrawal of the Kurdish Future Movement from the »National Rescue Conference«. At-Tammu legitimized this stop with the fact that the participants in the Istanbul conference would not have adhered to decisions reached in Damascus. He criticized the fact in the closing statement from Istanbul, the existence and rights of the Kurds in that »part of Kurdistan which has become attached to Syria« were not mentioned. At-Tammu added, »Those who strive to replace a police state with a religious state are acting illogically and behind the times and hurt the patriotic interests as well as the future of Syria, and also the coexistence and brotherhood of the [various] ethnicities.«
Following this criticism, the participants in the Istanbul conference took over the declaration originally worked out in Damascus. In this it is stated, among other things, that the construction »of a democratic, diverse, civil state with regularly changing rulers« is desired, »in which all Syrians - Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians and all other minorities - as well as all religions, Muslims and Christians« should participate. All Syrians, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation, ought to enjoy equal civil rights in a single, commonly held state based on constitutional principles. Mischʿal at-Tammu told KURDWATCH that there will be discussions how to respond to this new development.

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