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Syria Pardons Kurdish Rioters

Syrian authorities have released from jail 312 Kurds who were arrested last year during riots in northern Syria.

Riots erupted between Syrian security forces and Kurds in March 2004 after a soccer match in the northern town Qamishli. The detainees were accused of creating unrest and sabotage.

Between 25 and 40 people were killed in the riots, according to varying sources.

The Syrian news agency SANA reported that the Kurds were released as part of a presidential pardon in an attempt to strengthen national unity and enhance the nation’s security and stability.

The move was praised by human rights activists in Syria, Al-Jazeera reported, although some called on Syrian authorities to release more detainees and to resolve the Kurdish issue.

Kurds in Syria constitute around nine percent of the Syrian population and live primarily in northern Syria. Kurds are demanding equal rights and that citizenship be given to about 200,000 Kurds who were classified stateless based on a 1962 survey.