REPORT: Decree 49 — Dispossession of the Kurdish population?
Commentary on the political implications and economic consequences of a decree
On September 10, 2008, the Syrian president issued Decree 49. The decree amended Statute 41 of October 26, 2004, which regulated the ownership, sale and lease of land in border regions.1 In Kurdish and pro-Kurdish circles, the decree was almost unanimously described as »anti-Kurdish«. Thus an editorial in al-Wahdah, the central organ of the Kurdish Demo-cratic Union Party in Syria (Democratic Yekîtî), reads:
»It is no secret that a special project for the Kurdish issue is behind the Articles of Decree 49 from 2008. This project was promoted by numerous security services and Baʿthist institutions on the grounds that there was a plan to establish Kurdish dominance over the real estate markets, particularly in al-Qamishli. It was additionally alleged that foreign investors were investing their money in wholesale trade and construction projects. As a result these institutions are of the opinion that it is a national duty to resist the supposed Kurdish expansion with further special decrees and statutes in order to stop the economic and social development of the Kurds.«2
A pamphlet of the Democratic Yekîtî branch in Germany interpreted Decree 49 as a continuation of the »Arab Belt« policy. According to the pamphlet, the decree pursues the goal of expelling the Kurds from al-Hasakah province to other Syrian provinces or to Europe.3 Furthermore a pamphlet of the Kurdish Union Party in Syria (Yekîtî) in Germany reads:
»[Decree 49] is a decree of ethnic cleansing and demographic change for the people in this region. Moreover it is a systematic policy aimed at ending national Kurdish existence.«4
The central organ of Ebdilhekîm Beşar’s (ʿAbdulhakim Bashar) Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria writes:
»One decision after another has been made to sustain the oppression of this people [the Kurds] and to let them starve. This is also the reason why Decree 49 was issued.«5
Finally on October 31, 2008, the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) declared:
»The decree questions principally the right of Syrian citizens to hold property in the border areas of the country. There are to be with immediate effect no more entries in the land register. If this decree is complied with completely property can no longer be bought or sold, nor can it be bequeathed to the legal heirs. Those most affected are the Kurdish and the Assyrian Aramaic ethnic groups in the three governorates (Muhafazat) on the Turkish-Syrian border, Hasaka, Ar-Raqah and Aleppo.«6
What is the basis for this assessment? What is Decree 49 all about — in particular, how does it differ from the original text of Statute 41? And to what extent do potentially negative consequences primarily affect Kurds? These questions will be discussed in the following article.