The assassination of Kurdish opposition figure Meshaal Tamo is likely to push Kurds in Syria to take a more active role in the seven-month-old anti-regime uprising, analysts and activists believe.
More involvement by the Kurds in the pro-democracy revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that erupted in March “will have a huge impact on the situation in Syria”, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Saturday, the funeral for Tamo — who was gunned down the previous day in public in Qamishli in the north — turned into a mass rally with more than 50,000 demonstrators calling for the fall of Assad’s regime.
Syrian security forces killed at least two people when they opened fire on the crowd at the funeral.
Tamo’s son and a fellow activist, Zahida Rashkilo of the Kurdish Future Party, were wounded in the attack that killed him.
Demonstrations were held on Sunday in the Kurdish regions of Qamishli, Amuda, Derbasiyeh and Malkieh near the borders with Turkey and Iraq, according to activists who have called for more protests “for the torch of freedom.”
A video posted on YouTube showed protesters in Amuda destroying a giant statue of Hafez al-Assad, the late father of the current president.
“The Kurds will not give up until the regime falls,” Tamo’s son Fares was quoted by Al-Jazeera satellite television channel as saying.
The murder of Tamo, who was member of a newly formed opposition front the Syrian National Council (SNC), “will have a great impact on the Syrian revolt,” said Kurdish journalist and activist Massud Akko, who lives in Norway.
Tamo founded the liberal Kurdish Future Party, which considers Kurds to be an integral part of Syria, and had been recently released after three and a half years in prison.
His assassination, which sparked widespread international condemnation, was blamed by Damascus on a “terrorist” group.
The United States has renewed its calls for Assad to step down immediately amid escalating violence against anti-regime protesters that the United Nations says has left nearly 3,000 people dead.
Dozens of people have protested at Syrian embassies in Beirut, Berlin, Geneva, London and Vienna.
Syria’s three million Kurds, who represent 10 percent of the country’s population, demand recognition of their identity, a role in political life and “administrative autonomy,” according to their leaders.
There are 12 banned secular Kurdish parties in Syria. The Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria, Yezidi Party and the Democratic Union, which is close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are the most influential.
In 2004, five days of bloody clashes between Kurds and security forces in northern Syria — including Qamishli and Aleppo — left 40 people dead, according to Kurdish sources. The authorities put the toll at 25.
International human rights organisations regularly call on Damascus to end its “repression” of the Kurdish community, denouncing the detention of Kurdish leaders and the prohibition of political and cultural freedom of expression.
The Syrian authorities, who have long viewed the Kurds as a threat to Arab identity in the country, have tried to mollify the Kurds, announcing in April a decree granting citizenship to people of Kurdish origin who were deprived of it because of a 1962 census.
In a statement on Sunday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem described Tamo as a “martyr.”
“The reason behind the assassination was to create sedition in the Hasaka governorate, which has remained during the crisis a model of harmony and coexistence,” he said.