العنوان هنا
Situation Assessment 11 October, 2012

Palestinians in Syria and the Syrian Uprising

Keyword

Introduction[1]

At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were no borders between Palestine and Syria; prior to that time, there was economic and social integration between the Palestinian and Syrian peoples. The Syrians took part in the Palestinian revolution of 1936 and contributed in attempts to repel Israel's colonizing attack on Palestine's territories in 1948, resulting in the Nakba. After the Nakba, Palestinian's began migrating to neighboring areas, and Syria received a significant number of them as Palestinians found support from the Syrian people during their tragic crisis.

Since Palestinians migrated to Syria in 1948, Syrian authorities have legalized their residence in Syria, and issued laws and resolutions to organize their presence on Syrian territories[2] in a way that would guarantee them a reasonable standard of living and preserve their national identity. Under these laws, they became Syrians in terms of rights and duties, but remained Palestinian in terms of national identity, which paved the way for them to contribute to building Syria after its independence, on an equal footing with their Syrian brothers and sisters. Job opportunities were open to them just like the Syrians, so they were able to involve themselves with the economic life, with some having emerged as prominent businessmen, factory owners, and merchants, as well as professionals and entrepreneurs.[3] The only sign of a separate Palestinian existence in Syria is the presence of camps, which were not imposed on them by the government, but were maintained at their own volition. A diverse population lives in the camps as they are not places for poor Palestinians, but open to all, not closed in on themselves or Palestinian ghettos; Syrians reside in them too, and they are integrated into their Syrian surroundings. It is important to clarify that there are more Palestinian refugees living in Syrian cities than there are in the camps.

Palestinians are part of and have actively participated in Syrian political life, and having been encouraged by the fact that the liberation of Palestine was a central issue for the Syrian national movements, they became members of these movements without any discrimination. In fact, they occupied leading positions in movements such as the Baath Party, Arab Nationalist Movement, Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party), and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). They also contributed to the formation of policies and the different programs within these parties, and held senior positions in government departments, such as general director, department head, university dean, and minister, though to occupy these roles they were granted Syrian nationality in order to conform to Syrian law.

Palestinians also contributed to the building of the Syrian army in the post-independence stage. Syria received a group of 65 Palestinian youth from various districts and cities who had volunteered to be trained as officers in the "Palestinian Officers Academy" in Qatna, next to Damascus, which was opened after a decision from the Arab Salvation Army. They graduated from the academy after the Nakba, though many of them voluntarily remained in the Syrian army. The Syrian government granted them Syrian nationality under special decree number 1327 on August 17, 1950, signed into act by former Syrian President Hashim al-Atassi; after this time, Palestinians held important positions in the Syrian army.[4]

Within the framework of equality in rights and duties, Palestinians are conscripted to military service just like Syrians. They are also allowed to join the army and reach the highest ranks, and since special army regulations state that higher ranks are limited only to Syrians and not those under their rule (i.e., Palestinians), the Syrian authorities granted them Syrian nationality.

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[1] This paper was originally published by the Center in March 2012.

[2] To view these laws, refer to publications by the General Authority of Palestine Arab Refugees in Syria (GAPAR), such as the booklet "Palestinian refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic: Laws - decrees - resolutions - services - data - statistics". It includes, most importantly, law number 206 that was passed by the Syrian parliament and issued by former Syrian President Shukri al-Quwatli on July 10, 1956. The first article of this law states that "Palestinians residing in Syria as of the date of publication of this law are to be considered as originally Syrian in all things covered by the law and legally valid regulations connected with the right to employment, commerce, and national service, while preserving their original nationality." This law is still in force today.

[3] Examples include: Freij Fashion, Assia stores and clothing shops, and Ammoura Aluminum Factory.

[4] For more information on this topic, refer to: Hasan Abu Raqba, Flowers and Thorns: Memoirs of a Palestinian Officer, 2nd edition (Beirut: Bahith Center for Studies, 2010).