Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtualhearing that will examine current conditions in Syria affecting freedom of religion or belief, and highlight opportunities for U.S. policy to support Syria’s diverse religious and ethnic communities in formulating a political solution for the country.
Religious freedom in Syria remains threatened from numerous quarters. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad systematically discriminates against members of religious groups outside the President’s own Alawi branch of Islam, destroys religious minorities’ houses of worship during clashes with opposition groups, and actively strips both religious minorities and the Sunni Muslim majority of their autonomy and religious authority. Armed opposition forces and militant Islamist groups target vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities in their attempts to wrest power from the Assad regime and one another. The al-Qaeda offshoot Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continues to brutalize and displace religious minority communities in the northwestern region of Idlib, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has increased its presence in eastern Syria, waging almost daily attacks and destabilizing the region for religious minorities. Turkish-supported Syrian armed opposition groups leverage their Turkish financing and military support to wage campaigns of religious and ethnic cleansing in Afrin.
In contrast, there are promising environments for religious freedom and intrareligious cooperation in Syria, including areas in the north and east governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
What is the status of religious freedom in each of Syria’s regions and under each of these political authorities? How can U.S. government policy support Syrian-led efforts to create a political solution for the country that encompasses and actively advances religious freedom? Witnesses will document religious freedom conditions throughout the country and make recommendations for U.S. policy in relation to religious freedom in Syria.
Nadine Maenza, Chair, USCIRF
Nury Turkel, Vice Chair, USCIRF
Panel I - Interview by Chair Maenza
Sheikh Salem al-Meslet, President, Syrian Opposition Coalition (Invited)
Badran Jia Kurd, Deputy Co-Chair, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES)
David Phillips, Director, Peacebuilding, and Rights Program, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University
Thomas Pierret, Senior Researcher, Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence, France
Dastan Jasim, Doctoral Researcher, German Institute for Global and Area Studies; Visiting Scholar, Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) at the American University of Iraq - Sulaimaniya
Max Hoffman, Director, National Security and International Policy, Center for American Progress