A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Asad Reaches Out to Sunni Clerics, Kurds

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is taking steps to reach out to some potential opponents, presumably hoping to dampen the force of a new wave of demonstrations during tomorrow's Friday prayers. The ‘Alawite President has met with the Sunni Imams of Syria's major cities, and has otherwise reached out to the conservative religious community by closing Syria's only casino, lifting a ban on wearing full veil in the classroom, and other similar gestures.

He has also reached out to Syria's restive Kurdish minority, issuing a decree granting Syrian nationality to stateless Kurds in the Hasaka region, up to 300,000 of whom lacked nationality papers. A census in 1962 took away the nationality of about 120,000 Kurds, in some cases dividing families; some 300,000 descendants of those stateless Kurds have been seeking to have their Syrian nationality recognized for years.

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