Syria's Assad grants nationality to Hasaka Kurds

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad President Assad is introducing concessions in response to unprecedented protests

People living in Syria's eastern Hasaka region are to be granted Syrian nationality by a decree from President Bashar al-Assad, according to state TV.

Many inhabitants of the region are Kurds, who make up about 10% of Syria's 22.5m population.

Kurds in Syria frequently complain of discrimination.

President Assad - who is under pressure from pro-democracy protests - met Kurdish leaders in the city of Hasaka on Tuesday to hear their demands.

The decree comes after he tasked a committee with examining the census of 1962 which was responsible for depriving some 120,000 Kurds in Hasaka - 20% of the total - of their citizenship.

It was not immediately clear how many Kurds Thursday's decree will affect, but it is estimated between 150,000 and 300,000 Kurds will benefit.

But Kurdish leader Habib Ibrahim told Reuters news agency that Syria's Kurds would continue a non-violent struggle for civic rights and democracy in spite of the decree.

"Our cause is democracy for the whole of Syria. Citizenship is the right of every Syrian.

"It is not a favour. It is not the right of anyone to grant," he said.

On Thursday Mr Assad also sacked the governor of the central province of Homs, where there have been clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in the past three weeks.

Series of reforms

Until last week, Syria's Kurdish population had distanced themselves from protests posing an unprecedented challenge to President Assad's 11-year rule.

But then demonstrations erupted in Hasaka and Qamishli, with protesters calling for the right to citizenship and "freedom as well", AFP news agency reported.

The latest decree is among a series of measures taken by President Assad in what our correspondent in Damascus, Lina Sinjab, says is a bid to please the public.

He has appointed Adel Safar, a reformist and former minister of agriculture, to form a new government.

Three committees have also been established to investigate the killing of civilians in the cities of Deraa and Lattakia, and in Duma, a suburb of Damascus - and to study the lifting of the state of emergency which has been in force for almost five decades.

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