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Last update: September 2020
*Minor updates added: November 2021

COI summary

[Main COI reference: Targeting, 10.4]

According to estimates, in terms of ethnic groups, around 15 % of the population of Syria are Kurdish.

Prior to March 2011, there were estimated 517 000 stateless Kurds in Syria. There were two categories of stateless Kurds, the ajanib (foreigners) and the maktumeen (concealed, which were not included in the registries). Stateless Kurds, due to the lack of citizenship and identity documents, faced numerous restrictions, such as limited access to education, healthcare, livelihoods, freedom of movement, property ownership, participation in the judicial and political systems, registration of businesses, marriages and children. In April 2011, the Decree No.49 was issued and, subsequently, stateless Kurds could apply to obtain Syrian nationality. The majority of the ajanib acquired Syrian nationality while nearly 20 000 remained stateless. Regarding the maktumeen, around 50 000 obtained Syrian nationality, while around 41 000 remained stateless. Even though ajanib Kurds who obtained Syrian nationality were called to serve in the SAA, the government could not access them for conscription, as they were settled in SDF-controlled areas.

There were no reported security incidents that specifically targeted Kurds who were settled in Damascus. They were able to obtain employment in various sectors. However, some public positions were restricted and could not be occupied by Kurds. Generally, stateless Kurds cannot work in the public sector.

Kurds also inhabit areas which came under the control of Turkey and the affiliated SNA: the area between Azaz, Al-Bab and Jarabulus since 2016; Afrin district since 2018; and the so-called safe zone between Tall Abyad (Raqqa governorate) and Ras al Ain (Hasaka governorate) following Operation Peace Spring in October 2019 [Security 2020, 1.5.2]. In a report published on 1 March 2021, the CoI noted the pattern of ‘arrests, beatings, kidnappings and, on occasion, disappearances’ targeting mainly the returnees of Kurdish origin that has been observed after the Operation Peace Spring. In addition, the CoI noted ‘repeated patterns of systematic looting and property appropriation’ and ‘widespread arbitrary deprivation of liberty’ and considered various Turkish-backed armed groups responsible for these violations. Turkish-backed armed group members (and their families) have also taken control of the houses vacated by the fleeing residents and resorted to various forms of coercion, including abductions, torture, and murder, to force some residents, most of them ethnic Kurds, to flee their homes [Security 2021, 2.7.3]. The demolition of property belonging to Kurds in Afrin was also mentioned by previous reports. [Security 2020, 2.7.3].  

Civilians, particularly ethnic Kurds from Afrin, were also reportedly discriminated by the de facto authorities. In and around the so called ‘safe zone’ established by SNA and the Turkish armed forces between Tall Abyad (Raqqa governorate) and Ras al Ain (Hasaka governorate), sources indicate that persons of Kurdish ethnicity, especially those affiliated to, or with attributed affiliation to, SDF/YPG or any part of the Kurdish forces, can be at risk of denied returns, arbitrarily arrested or had their property confiscated [Security 2020, 2.7.3]. In Tall Abyad, the Turkish-backed rebel group SNA has reportedly committed executions and looting of property in the newly seized areas of the northeast [Security 2020,]. UN sources also reported that armed groups supported by Turkey carried out arbitrary arrests for the purpose of ransom to punish people for requesting to recover stolen property, or for alleged affiliation to the PYD or YPG [Security 2020, 2.7.3].

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. militia violence, illegal detention, kidnapping, killing, disappearance). When the acts in question are (solely) discriminatory measures, the individual assessment of whether discrimination could amount to persecution should take into account the severity and/or repetitiveness of the acts or whether they occur as an accumulation of various measures.

For Kurds from areas under the control of the SNA, well-founded fear would in general be substantiated.

In the case of other Kurds, not all individuals would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances such as: statelessness, identity document, area of origin and/or residency, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of race, nationality (statelessness) and/or (imputed) political opinion.