Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 09:33 GMT

Syria: Documented cases of Kurdish people who are born in Syria but refused citizenship based on their ethnicity; whether ethnicity is indicated on the application for citizenship

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 April 1999
Citation / Document Symbol SYR31628.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Syria: Documented cases of Kurdish people who are born in Syria but refused citizenship based on their ethnicity; whether ethnicity is indicated on the application for citizenship, 1 April 1999, SYR31628.E, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


According to Syrian Legislative Decree No. 276 of 13 February 1972, which is attached to Request for Information SYR10518 of 27 April 1992, as well as an official at the Consular section at the Embassy of Syria in Washington, DC (see SYR29911.E of 18 August 1998), all persons born in Syria of Syrian fathers are Syrian citizens.

However, for reports on the non-recognition of Syrian citizenship for Kurdish persons, including their status as either citizens, "foreigners" or "maktoumeen" (stateless persons) please consult the October 1996 Human Rights Watch report Syria: The Silenced Kurds available in Regional Documentation Centres. Under Articles 4 and 16 of Syria's Legislative Decree No. 276 a person who is a "foreigner," or a "citizen of the Arab states," may be granted "naturalized" citizenship if they submit a written application. Conditions necessary for approval of an individual's application include that "he should enjoy good conduct and reputation" (ibid.). The law further states under Article 29: "onus of proof in Nationality problems on anyone who claims that he enjoys it or does not hold it" (ibid.).

HRW states that it is "unaware of government actions to remedy the problems of Syria-born Kurds it has rendered stateless" (1999, 374). Country Reports 1998 indicates that:

Although the Asad Government stopped the practice of stripping Kurds in Syria of their Syrian nationality (some 120,000 lost Syrian nationality under this program in the 1960's), it never restored this nationality. As a result, those who had their nationality taken away, and their children, have been unable to obtain Syrian nationality and passports, or even identification cards and birth certificates (1999).

An official at the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic in Ottawa stated in a 30 March 1999 telephone interview that the application form for Syrian citizenship does not require that the applicant indicate his/her ethnicity.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. 1999. United States Department of State. Washington, DC.

Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic, Ottawa. 30 March 1999. Telephone interview with official.

Government of Syria. 13 February 1972. Legislative Decree No. 276 And Its Amendments No. 17.

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 1998. Human Rights Watch World Report 1999. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch (HRW). October 1996. Syria: The Silenced Kurds. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld