The Matter of Minorities    

 Jad Al Kareem Al Jeba'i

 

Preface:

The matter of minoritiesژ(*)گ and their rights is one of the most sensitive and dangerous issues. To approach this matter we need more deliberation, precision and systematical discipline. Today, the barbarian imperialistic economical globalization and the dictatorship of the market violates the rights of four-fifth humans and throws them to the margins of life by the name of democracy, human rights and minorities' rights. Thus, the researcher faces two dangers, first, the danger of missing or neglecting the rights of minorities, or anxiety by the excuse of resisting the demands of globalization and facing its challenges and the danger of adopting the new liberalism by the justification of defending human rights in general, and the minorities' rights in particular. This is because the current and accelerated globalization has two contradicting mechanisms as follows:

-First, the mechanisms of joining the local and national economies to the international economy, which is dominated by multi-national companies, the set free financial capital and the devouring economies, mainly, the American economy. These mechanisms make benefit of the revolution of information and advertisement, also, the revolution of transport, communication and information systems, where all are subjugated to big monopolization.

-Second, the mechanisms of disassembling and frittering the social, political and cultural national and nationalist structures, mainly, the national state, which is at the margins of the global system. These mechanisms are applied through reviving and flourishing the identities, which existed before nationalism and society, and making their preliminary connections and relations the substitutes for relations.

The matter of minorities, or sectarians, religious, linguistic, ethnic, and nationalistic groups are matters, which were expressed in total and treated as a whole. Many terms and idioms, imposed by the majority, were used to refer to this matter, which all have an ideological signification, and were never accepted by the minor groups. While we use the word 'minority', we can not deny how this word includes inner feelings of superiority and excellence. Also, even when its developments are dangerous and worrisome, the word alludes to ease the matter and degrade its importance. Each time the concept of minority or minorities is used, a whole history of complicated relations between the majority and the minority is regained. The former history is full of darkness and illusions. However, the subjective side of the idiom accords with the mathematical relativity and quantity, thus, it is useful in this research.

between citizens, which are the bases for the modern national state. The modern state equals the national or nation state, which resolved the matter of minorities by a democratic secularist solution.

Some present researchers and sociologists classify societies according to religious, ethnical, nationalistic, racial, linguistic and cultural variations into three types. First, we have the mosaic societies, which are unable to integrate. Second, other societies are of pure race, religion or nationalism. The third type is in between those two types. The societies of the third type are diversified and able to integrate at the same time. Except Lebanon, if its secular minorities did not obtain a modern national consciousness and its majority a secular consciousness, the researcher believes that the Arab countries are of the third type. The Arab countries include the religious, ethnical, national, linguistic and cultural variations, but all are able to integrate together. Probably, the Lebanese type with its radicalism imposes the necessity to search for a fundamental, secular and democratic solution for this latent and exploding matter. The Arab countries, mainly Syria, had steady steps toward the social and national integration. Although direct colonialism tried to divide it into smaller countries and abuse its national unity for objective reasons, Syria resisted all these attempts. This is unlike what most Orientalists and western centers of researches called the Arab societies as mosaic societies. This does not only refer to the multiplicity of constituents, but also to the depth of original differences between the constitutions, their rejections for national and social integration, as well as, their refusal for the social and political settlement. The ideological and political objectives of the mentioned features are only hidden for those who think that the western style affords scientific legitimacy for their speech.

The classical and neo-classical national mind ignored the matter of minorities and it still lays the responsibility of crisis and confusions on the external factors. It ignores the reality that the minorities' existence is much older than colonialism and imperialism. Also, it ignores that the factors of the minorities' internal explosion were the reason for calling the external interference and enabling it to exploit them. The national mind's neglect for this matter refers to its withdrawal from reality and the domination of the ideological element over the rational and actual elements of its structure. The roots of minorities' matter are old in our history and go far beyond the Islamic conquers.

The vision of Islam was established upon three important bases: monotheism, plurality and universality. Islam preserved monotheist religions and ethnics, and protected their followers. After the battle of Safeen, the Islamic split produced various Islamic sects, which differences deepened and affected the matter of faith. Thus, many nations entered Islam, some of them became Arabs, and others preserved their own identities, ethics or cultural linguistics. As all old empires, the Islamic Arab Empire included various nations, creeds, sects and religions, which, partially or completely, entered through the political social structure and the Islamic Arab culture. The mechanisms of bursting in the Islamic Arab state, which once had a nationalistic base and once a sectarian one or both bases in most cases, confirm the depth of this matter's structure. The Ottomans domination of Islamic Caliphates established a system of creeds that consisted of military centralization and administrative decentralization. The system started the operation of politicizing the matter of minorities, which deepened forward with the penetration of capitalism. Also, the matter was deeply rooted with the emerging "system of privileges" and the system of "protecting minorities", as well as, the colonialism and its policy of "Divide and Rule!". Actually, the separable structures were the only ones that could be separated.

"The colony that obtained some values of the western society, which it belonged to, had a paradoxical conduct. Accordingly, while the colony strengthened the feelings of estrangement for non-Islamic minorities, it applied some practices of the achievements of the bourgeois democratic nationalistic revolution. The colonial constitutions that imposed human rights for the first time in the Arab societies, which were disparaged by the colonial domination, promoted these minorities into the grade of citizenship. Moreover, the colonial system tried to integrate the minorities, nationalistically, (like, the annex to the draft treaty of 1936 between Syria and France for issuing a unified Personal Status Law). Due to the colonial extortion and the condemnation of the Christian minorities' estrangement, the majority of Muslims' introversion created a gap between the traditional consciousness and the democratic nationalistic tendency of the colonial constitutions. This complicated the course of the integrating democratic solution for the matter of minorities.

Consequently, even after the political independence, the Arab societies remained halfway bound. It was difficult to regain the old position of non-Muslims under the custody of Islam; also, there was deficiency to accomplish a democratic nationalistic revolution that afforded a democratic, modern and fundamental solution for the matter of minorities. The dissociation from the past and our deficiency to continue for a conscious determined future transformed the traditional sectarian position, which existed for many centuries before colonialism, into a sectarian crisis that personified and summed up the general crisis of Arab society"ژ(1)گ.

While the matter of minorities remained bringing up deliberations and tense explosions, the Arab societies relapsed to the pre-colonial stage that Yseen Al Hafez called the Shakhboot stage or the petroleum Bedouins stage. Thus, the past resurfaced the present.

As in most countries of the world, there are pluralities, variations, differences and contradictions in the Arab world too. There are nationalistic, linguistic and cultural groups, also, Islamic sects and Sufi ways, Christian, Jewish and Yazeedi sects. In fact, there is no plurality and variety without unity, and no differences and contradictions without similarity. This is exactly what the orientalistic vision ignores and wants us to ignore as well; thus, it establishes blockades instead of bridges. Without unity and resemblance, we cannot reach to the concept of the human and human rights, unless we use the western selective way in general, mainly, the American way. All humans have unlimited differences, but all are similar in humanity. Actually, there are variations in the differences too. For example, who said that the Kurds in Syria are not different from Arabs and in between themselves as well? Also, who said that Arabs are not different from the others and in between too?

The diversities are persistent among all human beings. Diversity supposes equality, morally and logically. If there were no differences, there would not be a need for equality. The dissimilarity presumes the equality because it assumes the human similarity and the mutual needs between the individuals, because each individual submits a necessary function for the others. This is the base for the political equality in front of law. Law is established for the equality between the absolute works of human beings. The relation between diversity and equality is the same between entity and existence. Anyhow, equality does not mean canceling the differences because cancellation would lead to haziness, mixture and nonexistence. The matter of human rights is concentrated on this issue; besides, the rights of minorities are branches of the Human rights' tree.

All human beliefs have no absolute value, but they obtain their value from the person who carries them and identifies himself with them. The human personality is able to carry unlimited beliefs and identifications, which each has differences and limits. Since the human being stopped to be a kind of a hunter among the other existing beings, he became the master and owner of his world; so, he has to be the master and owner of himself. The former diversity, which still clarifies the differences of subjective identifications and objective specifications, imposed slavery and put liberty opposite to it, also, it put the dialectical tyranny, repression and oppression of rights. With this dialectic, the human being produced his entity in the history and the world, and gradually regained the objectivity of both within his own self until he reached what he became now, on the leading line to infinity.

If dissimilarity was an objective reality, the crucial factor of the minorities' matter is the subjective element. This means, that the individuals of a specific group percept their differences and distinctions, and the other near groups percept these differentiations and distinctions as well. This leads to the feeling of belonging to a specified group to face the other groups, which some call the need for belonging. In the case of a nationalistic minority, this subjective feeling is consolidated by an objective element, which is language because it is the base of culture. Language was and remains an essential provision for human gathering. According to this belonging, the preliminary elements of identity, which are established upon perceiving the differences and contradictions, are formed. This preliminary identity is not a final fact, to become so, there has to be a confirmation and consolidation made by the other different one. The other has a decisive role in the operation of the minorities' collaborations and strengthening their internal cohesion.

We can say that the majority is the one who makes the minority, either by giving it privileges or by depriving it from rights. At the end, giving and depriving have the same effect. Giving privileges to a specific group redoubles its isolation from the other groups and consolidates its feeling of distinction and differentiation. Therefore, the privileges create religious, denominational and nationalistic fanaticism for the group and against them as well. Here, increasing is equal to decreasing because each one who gains more than his right is oppressing the rights of the others or, unintentionally, assisting in that. Then, he establishes the sieges and castles, which protect him and preserve his benefits. Actually, the siege that protects a person today might imprison him tomorrow.

The social restrains emerge when the groups enclose within their own specific interests and regard the others' interests as obstacles to be eliminated. The private interests are always blind; they are a necessity and, also, it is necessary to be well perceived and merged for the general benefit. According to these private interests, there are established ideologies that present restrictions, closeness and blindness. Still, the social relationships, always, include complicated and compounded mechanisms for integration and unification or excluding and elimination. The matter of minorities is not connected with closed, isolated entities and permanent fundamental identities, or with statistic fixed positions. This matter is connected with the type of prevailed political, cultural, economical and social relations in such a society and its relation to the level of social consciousness.

It is obvious that each religious, denominational and nationalistic group would care for developing to perceive the distinction and differentiation among its members as a device for preserving its collective existence, cultural heritage and benefits. All the groups would do the same and for the same reasons. This conduct is the main factor that develops the minority's perceiving by practicing differentiation and distinctions in behavior and treatment. Thus, the minorities would develop increasing feelings of persecution. Often, these feelings remain implied, among the minorities and explode at the first sign. Minorities are, often, charged with historical rancor because of a certain group, which controlled their social rank, share of wealth and authority according to the principle of dominance and subjugation.

This could be clarified in two cases, first, when the size of one minority is big and concentrated in one region, besides having an intensive feeling of distinction, which is accompanied by a feeling of superiority or injustice. Second, when the enthusiasm of the nationalistic elite for a monotheist nationalistic project does not regard the rights and benefits of minorities. Consequently, this minority would feel danger against its benefits, social existence and cultural heritage. We should confess that any mono project might arouse the fears of the minorities, especially, the nationalistic minorities. Thus, it is important to repeat the establishment of the unified project according to democratic, secular, rational and human bases, plus, the principle of the human being, history and the concept of progress.

1 - The Definition of "Minority":

Due to the point of interest, the included context and the required function, the definitions of minority differ. We will present some definitions and criticize until we reach a definition that suits our specified case in Syria.

- The International Encyclopوdia of Social Sciences defined "minority" as follows: Minority is a group of individuals who are distinguished from the rest of society by race, nationalism, religion or language. They suffer a relative decrease of power; consequently, they yield to some types of servitude, oppression and discrimination.

- The American Encyclopedia defined the minorities as groups who have a less social position inside the society than the dominating groups. Also, the minorities have less power and influence, and practice fewer rights in comparison to the dominating groups in the society. Most often, the minorities' individuals are deprived from enjoying the privileges of the first grade citizens. We wonder whether this definition corresponds with the social position in the United States or is it an American "product" for export?

- The draft of the European Treaty for protecting minorities indicates that the term "minority" means a group of individuals whose number is less than the rest of the country's inhabitants. The minorities' members are distinguished racially, linguistically or religiously from the rest of the members of society, besides, they care for the continuity of their culture, traditions, religion or language.

- The United Nations' Sub-Commission on Human Rights defined the minorities as settling groups in the society. They have special traditions and specific ethnic, religious or linguistic particularities that, clearly, differ from the ones that existed among the rest of inhabitants in a society, and they like to continue preserving them.

- The Declaration of the United Nations about the rights of the individuals, who belong to nationalistic or racial, religious and linguistic minorities, exceeded the definition and assured in its nine articles the importance of preserving the rights of minorities and equalizing them with the majority. The German delegation presented for the preparatory commission of this declaration the following definition: "Minority is a group of citizens of the state that form a minor number which does not have the attribute for dominance or supremacy in the state. They are distinguished from the rest of society members by race, language or religion, and have tendency for solidarity. Also, they have an implied care for continuity and aim for achieving equality in reality and law with the majority.

- The last definition seems to be the nearest to the logic of human rights because it does not contradict the principle of the national sovereignty, the sovereignty of the national or nationalist state. The definition brings out the truth of minority, which is a group of the country's citizens. Thus, all other characteristics are included in the circle of this objective truth. The rights of minorities should not contradict the sovereignty of the state. We think that this is the central issue. The rest of specifications that are included in the definitions intersect with the other definitions, such as, the less number, the inclination for solidarity, the desire for continuity and the aim for equality. Exceptionally, the definition of the American Encyclopedia brings out the inability of the minority to have the privileges of citizens of the first grade.

The rest of definitions depend on the predicament of distinction, which contradicts its logical context that supposes the unity of society and the national integration, as well as, resemblance. This is because all the definitions are issued by a set up vision that isolates the phenomenon, on one side, from its historical course and, on the other side, from its exchanged relations with the other social phenomena. This vision is a static one, which deals with minorities as stable identities, quiddities and substances of knowledge. Therefore, it treats the social relationships as relations of one direction, which are ostracizing and separating relations. In reality, there is no going out without entering in, no ostracizing without attracting and no separation without connection. The defect of this static vision is that it views the society according to one part or some parts of it instead of viewing this part or the rest of the parts as the significance of the whole society. In these definitions, the part defines the whole, but the fact is that the whole defines all its parts. Therefore, non-of these definitions are valid to be a base for studying the matter of minorities in Syria, not because of the objective definitions but because of the point of view and the system of researching.

In all cases, the context of differentiation or destination is not absolute. The minority might differ, nationalistically, and accord, religiously or culturally. As well, it might differ, religiously, and accord, nationalistically, linguistically and culturally. The decisive truth in this matter is the identity of the state, which defines at the end the possibility of social and national integration, or notژ(2)گ. Unlike the national state or nationalistic state, which can not be really national without being both democratic and secular, the religious state and the despotic state, for example, do not release any chance for integration.

To approach this matter in Syria, we should join the historical, the social (classes) and the mathematical analysis within a dialectical vision for reality and history. The logic of sociology is the nearest to the mathematical logic, which is the most abstract and real at the same time. The dialect of randomness and regularity, necessity and freedom, and the private and general dialects control the human sociology because it represents the human soul in place and time. Thus, consciousness has a decisive effect in defining the attitude toward this matter. As much as the consciousness is universal, historical, democratic, secular and dialectic the attitude becomes rational and human. Such consciousness requires the unity of society and state within the unity of human kind or the unity of the world. As it is known, the bases for actual unity are plurality, variety, diversity and contradiction. There is a great difference between treating the minorities' matter from the "unity" point of view and treating it from the point of separation and disintegration.

Accordingly, the definition could be the following: Minorities are nationalistic, linguistic, cultural, religious or sectarian groups that regulate in forms and structures. They establish relationships with the majority according to the level of society development and grade of its social and nationalistic integration. The internal relations in between are defined according to the prevailed political, cultural, economical and social types of relations in each stage of development. The relations are, always, of paralleled rejection and attraction, which decisively are defined by the grade of political and social settlement. The definitive element of a minority's existence is its subjective consciousness of its difference and distinction, also, the desire for continuity, the perseverance of identity and the yearning for equality. We can say that the minority remains so according to what it demands of private rights to consolidate its self-seclusion and rejection of integration. Thus, the matter of number is not definitive in this field.

Due to this definition, we can say that human rights are a limit that restrict the rights of minorities, also, the unity of society and the established state upon the principle of the individual's freedom and human rights delimit the rights of the minorities. Thus, the minorities' rights delimit as well the majority's rights. In other words, the rights of minorities are the duties of the majority. While the modern national or nationalist state, which is mainly secular and democratic, seems to its citizens, inside it, as a state of right and law, it seems to other citizens, outside it, a nationalistic state. Describing Syria, as Arabic state does not disparage any right of non-Arab Syrian citizens because this definition is intended for the external view, not the internal one. The state is the subjective definition of nation, obviously, the majority of the nation. All the states are defined according to their nations. The researcher believes that disparaging any right is degrading all the rights, including the right for living. Therefore, disparaging the rights of any part of the society, as much as small, is derogating from the rights of the whole society.

The society, which is able to grow and develop, is the free society. No society could be free unless all its members are free. Freedom is always connected with law and responsibility. Thus, the matter of minorities in Syria has to be solved by a secular solution through separating religion from politics and the positive neutrality of the state toward all religions, sectarians, secular and non-secular political ideologies. Besides, this matter should be solved, democratically, by achieving the actual equality of all citizens to law, accomplishing social equality, liberating general freedoms, releasing creative initiatives of all citizens without exceptions and discriminations to guarantee the political and social settlement.

2 - Politicizing the Matter of Minorities:

Most western and Arab researchers believe that the attention toward the phenomenon of minorities increased at the beginning of the 19th century. The treaties of Vienna in 1814-1815 indicated texts that called for religious freedom and political equality. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the attention was developed by the intensified activities of the Jewish movement, to protect the minorities in general, especially, Jews and to give them equal political and civil rights in the countries that denied their rights. The attention was, also, increased by the call of the International Socialist movement for the right of self-determination in 1918. By the frame of the Nations League, the agreements of the Peace Conference in Versailles (1919-1920) referred to the cultural and nationalistic rights of minorities. On the 10th of December 1984, the United Nations issued the Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibited the discrimination of race, religion, color or political tendency. On the 10th of December 1992, the United Nations issued a special declaration for the individuals' rights, who belong to nationalistic, racial, religious or linguistic minoritiesژ(3)گ. The treaties and conventions confirm that the matter of minorities, always, existed in the international, regional and local conflicts, whether through the attempts to increase these conflicts or to decrease them.

Politicizing the matter of minorities in the Arab world, in general, and in Syria, in particular, started at the Ottoman age. That was at the beginning of the western capitalism's expansion in the Ottoman Empire and imposing the system of privileges, as well as, the principle of protecting minoritiesژ(4)گ. The Ottoman state was established upon military centralization and administrative decentralization; also, it was penetrated by the system of creeds and privileges. The weakness of the Ottoman State enabled the Europeans to transform the system of creeds into a matter of minorities, in order to make benefit of the given advantages by the principle of protecting minorities. The grand powers distributed the creeds between themselves, cared for their benefits and consolidated the traditional relations with themژ(5)گ. The Ottoman authority was aware of the danger of protection. Thus, in 1839, the Ottomans issued the Line of Kalahana that indicated the equality of all residents to law, regardless of their religion or sect, and to the same responsibilities of Ottoman citizens that related to taxes and military service. Actually, it could not cancel this system until the year 1914.

After the 1st World War, the Agreement of Saykes-Picot subjugated the Arab countries to direct colony, where the defeated Ottoman Empire was distributed between the victorious countries. The distribution was arranged in a way that enables the colonies to interfere with the positions of the distributed countries in case they would have any sign of disobedience. France tried to divide Syria into petty states; two of them had clear sectarian features, which were the State of Druze Mountain and the State of Alawi Mountain. All the groups of the Syrian nation resisted the division and terminated it soon; thus, it was out of their memories. In fact, there were two important revolutions against the French Colony, which started from the Alawi Mountains and the Druze Mountain, the second one, led by Sultan Basha Al Atrash and turned into a general revolution. Also, there was the revolution of Ibraheem Hanano, who belonged to Kurds minority.

The politicization of this matter reached its peak after separating Lebanon from Syria and establishing the Lebanese State upon the principle of anxious sectarian balance, then, establishing the racist state of Israel on a part of the Palestinian land. Since then, the matter of minorities became one of the important axes in the strategy of this expanding settling entity and the strategies of the great powers. What arouses the attention is the increase of concentration on the rights of minorities after the collapse of Soviet Union and the emergence of United States as a unique great power, which imposed itself upon the United Nations and the world.

It is worth mentioning that the religious apostasy and the attempts to revive the exclusive identities, which the world is witnessing now, especially, the marginal and retarded parts, assisted to consolidate the operation of politicization. This operation became one axis of the American policy in the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavian Union, Arab world and many other places. In the Arab world, the external factors, historical retardation and political despotism, all joined and led to the explosion of minorities' matter. Since 1956 till 1991, the local conflicts and civil wars resulted the homicide of 1.230.000 victims, 7.300.000 homeless and wasted 100 Billion $ Dollarsژ(7)گ.

The International Declaration of Human Rights is the Basis for Minorities Rights:

The International Declaration was based on "the recognition of human dignity that is innate in all the human beings and their equal and fixed rights". This recognition is the basis for freedom, justice and peace in the world. All human beings look for the emergence of a world in which the individual has the freedom of expression and faith, and is released from fear and poverty. Nothing but law can guarantee the human rights and freedom. Otherwise, people at the end are obliged to rebel against despotism and tyranny.

The general fundamental principles of the Declaration are the bases for minorities' rights. Calling for the rights without these bases might lead to other undesired directions, according to certain interests. Day after day, experiences prove that the owners of benefits are not much interested in minorities and are not trusted to defend them either. In this field, we have doubts about the motives and purposes in which the Treaty of the United Nations in 1992 was formed. The Treaty concerned the rights of individuals who belong to nationalistic, racial, religious or linguistic groups. It was formed after the United States imposed itself upon the United Nations and the world as a unique power. The treaty, mainly, indicated the role of the United Nations to protect minorities.

Everyone knows that the United Nations cannot protect minorities without the American forces, who are the worst enemy to human rights. The fear is that the most important motives and purposes are to disassemble the nationalistic states and fragment societies, as what happened in the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and other countries; or as the United States "defended" and still defends human rights and the rights of minorities in Iraq. In this context, we have to confirm the fact that the matter of minorities in every society is an absolute interior matter, which could not be solved from outside, otherwise, we return back to the system of "protecting minorities", which was imposed by European states on the Ottoman State and ruined its bases. No external power can resolve the matter of minorities or any branch of it. Any effective and permanent solution in a society has to be resolved, locally, by the society's methods and according to its own national benefits. What draws the attention is that the mentioned treaty demands the states to protect the existence of their minorities, preserve their nationalistic or ethnic identity and their linguistic, religious and cultural identity, as well as, prepare the proper conditions to consolidate the minorities' identity, ignoring the minorities' right in national integration and obtaining the national identity.

The first Article of the Declaration indicated the first basis: "All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. People have to treat each other with a brotherhood spirit".

This existential principle is the same moral and rational principle. Actually, people live in societies that were, historically, formed according to another basis, which is the man's estrangement from his own work, his own world and himself. The private proprietorship was and remains the main factor of this estrangement and the most prominent feature of it. Varied proprietorship produced variations of power, which consequently reproduced variations in rights. Thus, "each has right according to his power".

Therefore, there is a striking difference between the existential, mental and moral foundation and the practical application. If the indications of the first Article of the Declaration was moral and logicalژ(8)گ, then, the practical application and the foundations, which our political and social life were built upon till today are not so even in the most developing countries that care for human rights. In fact, a principle has a moral power being the standard for the practice and the judge for it. Accordingly, a principle should be admitted and recognized, preliminary and finally. In addition, the following principles of the Declaration should be recognized:

1 - Every human, wherever he exists, has the right to be recognized according to his legal character.

2 - All people are equal to law and have the right to enjoy an equal protection without any distinction. Also, all people have the right for equal protection against any discrimination that disregards this Declaration and any provokes for such discrimination.

3 - No one should be exposed to arbitrary interference in his private life, his family, his residence, his correspondences or harming his reputation and honor. Each person has the right to the protection of law from such interferences or launches against him.

4 - Every individual has the freedom to move and choose the location of his residence within the frontiers of his state. Besides, each individual has the right to leave any country, including his own country, and to return back to it.

5 - Each individual has the right to resort to another country or try rescuing to escape from insult if he is not convicted with non-political crimes or activities that contradict the United Nations' principles.

6 - Each individual has the right to have a nationality and it is prohibited to deprive a person, arbitrarily, from his nationality or deny his right to change it.

7 - Each person has the right to freedom of religion, conscience and thoughts. The right includes the freedom of changing his religion or faith and the freedom of expressing that by education and practices, plus, celebrating rituals, whether secretly or with groups.

8 - Cultivation should aim for developing the personality, completely, and consolidating the respect for humans and fundamental freedoms, besides, developing the understanding, forgiveness and friendship between all nations and religious or racial groups.

9 - Each person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes adopting opinions without interference, obtaining news and ideas, receiving and broadcasting by any mean without restricting to geographical boundaries.

10 - Each person has the right to freedom of affiliation to associations and peaceful groups. It is prohibited to oblige any one to join an association.

11 - Each individual has the right to share in directing the general affairs of his country, directly or through representatives, who are selected freely. Also, each person has the same right as the other person to assume the general employment in the state. The will of the nation is the source of the government's authority, which is expressed by upright regular elections based on secret voting and equality between all people, or according to any similar procedure that guarantees the freedom of voting.

Actually, the achievement of these principles supposes modern social relations and, necessarily, a democratic and secular state. Or, let us say the achievement of these principles supposes a modern civil society and a democratic state. This supposition leads us to the deep reasons that impeded and still impede the minorities' utilization of their legitimate rights. These reasons are, deeply, rooted in the structures of retarded desecrated classical society and the structure of the despotic state. The produced Oriental despotism, which emerged from the depth of history and was established upon adherence and servitude, destroys the legal character of the human, then, destroys his moral character. Let alone pauperizing and impoverishing, which means transforming the humans into beings full of bitterness, feelings of deficiency, emptiness and uselessness. Through these mechanisms, despotism ruins the field of public life that provides the chances of integration for religious, sectarian, nationalistic, linguistic, cultural and social groups in a social unity, which upgrades the individuals from subjects into citizens. Also, the social unity allows the production of national identity that rearranges the preliminary links and social relationships according to the axis of national belonging. In addition to public life, despotism ruins the field of personal and private life; so, it destroys the individual's personality, freedom and independence. It is useless to research about the obstacles against human rights, in general, and minorities' rights, in particular, away from the relations of production and social relations, also, away from the state and its relation with society, which is supposed to have produced it.

The Decree No. 208, dated 13.3.1973, of the Syrian constitution recognized most principles of the International Declaration, especially, in the Articles No. 25, 33, 35 and 38. These principles remained written without execution. Due to the state of emergency and martial laws, which never stopped since the 8th of March 1963, the constitution was born dead in those circumstances. The authority's accumulation, the centralization of all powers, the monopolization of society's wealth, power and authority, the control of all social, political, cultural, and economical articulations made all the rights and fundamental freedoms lost.

Article No. 25 of the Syrian constitution indicated the following:

1. Freedom is a sacred right. The government guarantees liberty for its citizens and sustains their dignity and security.

2. The sovereignty of law is a fundamental principle in the society and state.

3. All citizens are equal to law in rights and duties.

4. The government guarantees the principle of equal opportunities among all citizens.

5. Each citizen has the right to assist in the cultural, social, economical and political life, and law organizes this assistance.

6. Citizens practice their rights and enjoy their freedoms according to law.

Article No. 33 indicated the following:

1. It is prohibited to deport the citizen away from his country.

2. Each citizen has the right to move inside his state unless prevented by a judicial judgement or executed for health reasons and general safety.

3. Political refugees cannot to be surrendered because of their political principles or their defense for freedom.

Article No. 35 indicated the following:

1. The freedom of faith is sustained and the government respects all religions.

2. The government guarantees the freedom to hold all religious rituals but without prejudice to the general system.

Article No. 38 indicated the following:

"Each citizen has the right to express his opinion, freely and openly, in speech, writing and all means of other expressions. Also, the citizen has to assist in supervision and useful criticism that ensure the safety of the national and nationalistic structure and consolidates the socialist system. Besides, the government guarantees the freedom of press and publication according to law".

If these principles of the Syrian constitution were in operation, they would form a solid base for solving the matter of minorities in Syria that consolidates the national unity and strengthens the unity of society and state, which signifies the unity of plurality, diversity, variety and contradiction. Therefore, the first entrance to accomplish the human rights and the minorities' rights in Syria is to transform the structure of the existing dominating state into a constitutional state, a state of right and law for all citizens without exceptions or discrimination of any basis. Furthermore, the first step is to stop the state of emergency, cancel martial laws, exceptional courts and all related laws, mainly, the ones that contradict the constitution and restrict its articles, which insure the civil rights and fundamental freedoms, and eliminating the contradictions within the constitution's articles. Any discussion about the matter of minorities, which does not relate to these entries, is an attempt to arouse disturbance and destroy the national unity. There is no effective solution for the matter of religious and sectarian minorities other than secularizing the society and state. Also, there is no useful solution for the matter of nationalistic minorities other than the democratic resolution. The whole matter of minorities is concentrated in the political liberation, which is the necessary entrance, logically and historically, for human liberation.

The Nationalistic Attribute of the State:

The state was called the Syrian Arab Republic. It was defined in the first Article of the constitution as follows:

1. The Syrian Arab Republic is a socialist, nationalist and democratic state of sovereignty. It is not allowed to abandon any part of the state's land. The state is a member in the Union of Arab Republics.

2. The Syrian Arab region is a part of the Arab World.

3. The nation of the Syrian Arab region is a part of the Arab nations that works and struggles for achieving its comprehensive unity.

The Constitution specified the religion of the president and the main source of legislation as follows:

1. The religion of the president is Islam.

2. The Islamic doctrine is the principal source for legislation.

The Article No. 4 specified the official language of the state, which is the Arabic language.

Among the attributes of the state there was "Arabism", which might provoke the sensitivity of some Syrian non-Arab citizens, especially, when the constitution decides that the Syrian nation is a part of the Arab nations that works and struggles for achieving its comprehensive unity. In fact, an objective calm examination of the Arabism feature clarifies this confusion. While the state, any state, seems for its citizens, from inside, as a state of right and law, it appears for its non-citizens, from outside, as a nationalistic one. This nationalistic feature is the prevailed characteristic of modern state in general, which is obtained from the majority of the citizens, who are in the Syrian case Arabs. No nationalistic state seems nationalistic for its citizens inside, except for the racist states, such as, the former South Africa and Israel. The state of Israel was established according to the claims that Judaism is a nationalistic link and the Jews are the chosen nation of God. The first attribute of the state that confirms our direction is the "Republic", which means "generality", that signifies the state as a state for all citizens without exceptions or discriminations.

According to the confirmation of the mentioned articles in the constitution all policies and discriminated procedures against non-Arab citizens are unconstitutional. However, it is not logical to indicate that the nation of the Syrian region is part of the Arab nations. The actual and logical indication is that the Arabs of the Syrian region are part of the Arab nations. Accordingly, the constitution admits the existence of nationalistic and non-Arab groups in Syria. This does not contradict any article or item of the constitution. With such recognition the matter of nationalistic minorities becomes a subject for democratic resolution, because the recognition of an existing nationalistic minority is an admission of an existing problem that needs solutions.

It is worth mentioning that the classical nationalistic mind does not admit the existence of such a problem. Also, the nationalistic Arabic ideology with its unhistorical classical logic, as the other ideologies, does not acknowledge the actual truths and mental truths. This is because both actual and mental truths work for splitting the ideology and uncovering its solid nucleus, then, threatening the fixed identity, the unhistorical one, which is enclosed to its pauperization and emptiness. As a matter of fact, "the complex of identity" was produced by the reactions against the external violations and the submissive defeats. The basis of the majority's attitude toward minorities is concealed in this complex or this "subjective consciousness", which defines the attitude of those who embrace ideology toward the world, society, state and human being.

The Matter of Minorities in Syria:

Formerly, we mentioned that the Syrian society is one of the most Arab societies that includes variations and it is the most settled society as well. If centralization and political and social settlement are two essential standards, the structure of inhabitants in Syria never impeded these standards. This is because the big number of Arabs and the majority of Muslims accord together. The Arab Muslims form 80.1% of total population, 64.3% are Sunni, 11.6% are Alawi, 8% are Ismailis, 4% are Shiite and 3% are Druze. If we add Kurds, who are Sunni and their percentage is 7%, to the rest of Sunni, then the percentage of Muslim Sunni would be about 71.3% of the total population.

Arab Christians form 8.9% of the total population and they are divided as follows: 4% Greek Orthodox, 1.3% Greek Catholic, 1.3% Syrian Orthodox, 0.05% Syrian Catholic, 0.04% Maronite, 0.04% Protestant, 0,07% Chaldean, Latin and Nestorians. If we add Armenians, who are Christians and their percentage is 4%, the percentage of Christians becomes about 12.9% of the total population. There is a minority of Yazidis, plus, a very little number of Jews, whose whole percentage does not reach 0.05% of the total population.

On the nationalistic level, Arabs form around 89% of the total population, followed by Kurds 7%, all Armenians, Circassians and others form 4%. According to these percentages the Syrian society provides the factors of settlement and national unity. It is very difficult to disturb this settlement or abuse this unity. The national unity is not a settled and final fact, but an open battle that should, continuously, be gained. Today, one of the provisions to gain it is to unify the law. This means subjugating the various and different personal status laws to one civil law, which rules are applied upon all citizens, beside permitting civil marriage without any restrictions except the restraint of the civil law. It is illogical to have in a society, which looks for national and social integration, various personal status laws. The unification of legal recourse is a necessary condition for unifying the society. Law is the foundation of the society's unity and the actual state, being general and mutual between all the citizens and all the social groups. A couple of laws and decrees could not resolve the matter. Acquiring the modern achievements and applying it could resolve the matter, also, by generating a Copernican revolution on the social level that changes the society's point of view toward itself, nature and the world. Copernicus did not change the world but changed the point of view toward it, thus, every thing in the human mind changed.

Let us take a risk and say that the matter of human rights, in general, and the minorities' rights, in particular, is a matter of modernizing the social consciousness, rationalizing, secularizing and democratizing it. We do not have illusions about the subjectivity of this operation but we bet on objective elements, which exist in our reality by fact and by force, and according to the changes of the world that we are a part of it. The achieved progress in any part of the world is a general human attainment for the human beings. The basis of the bet is that the prevailed Arabic ideology has all its relation been cut from reality and became retarded from the practices of its society. Here hides the problem of the historical Arabic retardation of nations that are thrown to the margin of the age. Moreover, these nations might be thrown out of history by the barbarian capitalistic globalization.

Except few Syrian citizens, who belong, subjectively and objectively, to the Kurds nationalism, no other religious, sectarian, nationalistic or linguistic and cultural minority suffers a mentioned persecution. Even the discriminating procedures and the nationalistic persecution that the Syrian Kurds suffer from are not more than illegal and unconstitutional practices and procedures, which were experienced by some local authorities, mainly, the security, in their different regions of inhabitance. Besides, there are central procedures like, the "Arabic belt", and depriving about 160.000 citizens from the Syrian nationality according to the statistics of 1962. This matter is still unresolved and needs a radical solution according to the constitution. Of course, this does not mean that there are no problems of minorities in Syria, which still suffer the lack of national and social integration due to the above-mentioned reasons.

The Syrian Kurds reside in different and separated regions, in Damascus, the capital, and the north and east of the country. Most of Kurds are Arabists and most of them do not know any Kurdish dialect. In addition, the Kurds and Arabs have mutual culture and one historical experience. The Syrian Kurds participated, effectively, in politics and some of them were appointed in high official ranks in the civil administration and military, including presidency, without arousing any nationalistic reaction or nationalistic sensitivity among Arabs. Actually, the Kurds were always known for their enthusiasm to defend the country and their zeal for its independence, sovereignty and unity. They are not demanding self-governing or separation.

It is not logical to ignore the Kurds' right to sympathies with their groups and look for establishing a State of Kurds, as much as the objective and subjective provisions allow that. Also, it is not logical to ignore their cultural rights as a nationalistic group, who care for consolidating their cultural identity and interior solidarity. If some Syrian Kurds have nationalistic fanaticism, which is even in all nationalisms, this fanaticism is not just a reaction to the nationalistic bigotry of Arabs. From here arise the importance of purifying the Arab nationalistic consciousness from the stains of bigotry. The nationalistic bigotry is the malignant illness of nationalists everywhere and in every place.

One of the important standards to adjust the relation between the majority and minorities is the external marriage, which means the marriage between the Arab man and a non-Arab woman, and the contrary, also, the marriage between a Muslim man and a non-Muslim woman, and the contrary. Within this standard, the relation between Kurds and Arabs is the nearest to social integration. There are no restrictions for external marriages except the marriage between a Muslim man and a non-Muslim woman and the contrary. The termination of these restrictions is subjected to secularize the personal status law. An example is the relation between the majority of Muslim Sunni and the Islamic and non-Islamic minorities. Thus, the marriage between a Muslim Sunni man and a non-Sunni woman obliges the woman to change her religion or sect, as well as the marriage between a Muslim Sunni woman and a non-Muslim man requires the change of the husband's religion or sect to Islam.

As for the civil rights and fundamental freedoms, except the position of Kurds, since 1963, the minorities and the majority suffer the same under the actual political positions. Due to the restrictions that were imposed by the illusions of the Arab nationalist ideology, the cultural rights for non-Arabs are still restricted in general. In fact, the resolution of this matter is subjected to the modernization of nationalist ideology, as well as, rationalizing, secularizing and democratizing it. We wish that the signs of reformation that started in Syria, lately, would pave the way for a secular and democratic system, which responds to the demands of human soul and mind. Thus, all the citizens would enjoy their rights by the sovereignty of law and nation.

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Footnotes:

1) Review Yaseen Al Hafez, "The Nationalistic and Democratic Matter", Dar Al Hasad, Damascus, 2nd edition, 1997, p. 232 and after.

2) The concept of national integration or the social and nationalistic integration opposes the concepts of melting, dissolution and absorption. The concept of national integration is established upon the secular democratic principle, which is the principle of citizenship and equality to law.

3) Review Sa'ad Al Deen Ibraheem, "Creeds, Sects and Races, the Sorrows of Minorities in the Arab World", Iben Khaldoon Center, Cairo, 1994, p. 15 and after.

4)  In 942 A.H./ 1535 AD, Sultan Saleem Al Kanooni signed a Treaty with the King of France, Francois 1st, which was considered the basis for the idea of privileges that the western countries enjoyed. Those privileges violated the sovereignty of the state, mainly, the legislative and judicial fields.

5) Review Ahmed Al Sawi, "The historical Minorities in the Arab World", the Center of Arab Civilization, the nationalistic series, No. 1, Cairo, 1989, p. 30 and after.

6) The previous source, p. 36.

7) Sa'ad Al Deen Ibraheem, previous source.

8) The first Article in the International Declaration of Human Rights indicates the following:

          "Each human has the right to make benefit of all the rights and freedoms (that are mentioned in the International Declaration) without any distinctions, like the discrimination because of color, gender, language, religion or political opinion, or any other opinion. Also, there should be no discrimination because of social and national origin, wealth or birth, or any other position without differentiation between men and women. Other than that, there will not be any preference to political, legal or international position of the country or the region of the individual, whether this country or region is independent, under guardianship or has no self-governing and its sovereignty is subdued to any restrictions".