The Society for Threatened Peoples STP (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker – GfbV) has lost one of its most important friends in Syria: Maschaal Tamo. He was shot on October 7th, 2011, in the north-eastern city of Kamischli, close to the border of Turkey, by unknown masked suspects. Only a few weeks ago we celebrated the release of Maschaal Tamo from imprisonment were he had been held as a political prisoner for almost three years. Thus we were struck by the news of his death. The human rights activist recently reliably provided us with information concerning the Kurdish population during the Syrian revolution.
According to Tamo, approximately 1,500 Kurds had peacefully demonstrated for human rights on the streets of Kamischli in 2006. They were threatened by the chief of the military security who stated that "this is an Arabic country. Those who do not accept this, will be driven out". After this statement gun shots were fired. "We appeal to the federal government of Germany to assist us and to promote the enforcement of human rights in Syria with the help of the EU-Council Presidency as from January," Tamo said. "It is unacceptable that two million people are brutally persecuted in their own country and live without any rights." (http://www.gfbv.de/pressemit.php?id=766&highlight=Tamo)
If I remember correctly, this was the first time that Tamo was cited by the STP. That day I called him in order to get an overview on the situation in Kamischli. There were further protests of the Kurdish population against the Syrian regime. Tamo was very well structured and informed me about recent developments very quickly. I asked him whether he wanted to be mentioned in our press release. "If you always remain anonymous, you are not considered as authentic. You have to take responsibility for what you believe."
Ever since this day we were in regular contact via E-mail or telephone. When Tamo was not at home, I talked to his wife or children.
In August 2008, Tamo was arrested by a patrol of the Syrian secret service. His relatives were refused any information as to his whereabouts. This information was revealed only after the intervention of the embassies of several democratic states in Damascus. Shortly after the revelation, he was sentenced to three and a half years of imprisonment on the account of a "weakening of the spirit of the nation".
When the wave of revolutions in the Arabic region had also reached Syria, Tamo was set free in the beginning of June.
After his release I called him several times. The last time I reached him was in August, 2011, while the STP held a small conference with representatives of Kurdish Organisations in Syria.
Tamo and I discussed how the Kurdish organisations in Syria could protect their people. I asked him to do as much as he could to help the Kurdish population so they would act in unison in these hard times in Syria. When I said that "the Kurds have not had many good experiences with the Arabic parties in Syria, especially with the Muslim brotherhood", Tamo remained silent. Did he already know what I was going to say or did he consider it as irrelevant what I had said? Tamo was an experienced politician and did not have to listen to what a person in the far away Germany had to say. We will never know what he thought in that moment. Nevertheless, one thing is fact: Tamo strongly believed in a peaceful revolution, that would provide the grounds for a democratic, civilised and pluralistic Syria. In this Syria, his people, the Kurds, as well as all other Syrians can live equally and with dignity. Our only hope that remains is that the Arabic-Syrian opposition fulfils Tamo’s expectations.
The 53 year old Tamo was the founder and spokesmen of the Kurdish Movement for the Future and a strong critic of the regime of Baschar al-Assad. Almost all Kurdish organisations assume that the murderers were either agents of one of the various Syrian secret agencies, or one of several groups that loyal to the regime and prone to violence. On the other hand some people accuse the northern neighbour of Turkey of committing the murder. The country has various interests in weakening the national Kurdish movements in Syria and in other states. Even the Syrian government claims that the Turkish secret service is responsible for the murder of Tamo because the Turkish government is opposed towards Syria and the Kurdish people.
It is well known that the current Turkish regime is not only opposed towards the Kurdish population, but also towards the Assyro-Arameans, the Druze, the Christians and the Yazidi. But the death of Maschaal Tamo lies in the sole responsibility of the bloodthirsty and totalitarian regime in Damascus. Their politics have lead to a situation in which Syria is very close to a civil war. If the regime wanted to, it could protect all of its people. That is why the regime of Baschar al-Assad will have to deal with the consequences of the death of Maschaal Tamo and all other murders in Syria.
Dr. Kamal Sido, STP (GfbV), Department for the Middle East