Too little too late?
Naturalisation of stateless Kurds and transitional justice in Syria
in Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship
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The statelessness of Kurds in Syria is one of the multiple issues that have been long protracted by successive Syrian governments. In 2011, and parallel to the growing public protests against the Syrian regime, a section of stateless Kurds in the country, who were previously denationalised in an exceptional and exclusionary census in 1962, were re-granted Syrian nationality. This naturalisation process, which was installed through a presidential decree and as part of proclaimed political reforms, targeted Syrian Kurds who were labelled as ajanib [foreigners] while excluding another section of the community who remain categorised as maktoumeen [the unregistered]. By engaging a transitional justice perspective, this chapter interrogates the naturalisation of Syrian Kurds and the implications of the Syrian state’s policy of ‘solving’ this case of in-situ statelessness. The chapter critically engages a discussion of human rights and transitional justice paradigms in the light of the unfolding legacy of statelessness and the incoherence of the Syrian state’s policy. Given the role that ethnic discrimination had played in producing statelessness in Syria, the discussion specifically highlights the identity conflict that is intensely manifest in the naturalisation process when ajanib Syrian Kurds are now officially recorded as Arab nationals of Syria. Finally, the chapter demonstrates the challenges relating to solving statelessness within the currently limited transitional justice process pursued for Syria, suggesting alternative pathways for addressing the issue based on an intersectional and non-hierarchical understanding of human rights and a transformative role of transitional justice.

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