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Annual Report - Chapters and Summaries

  • Syria Chapter - 2017 Annual Report

    Arabic Translation

    Kurdish Translation

    Key Findings

    Religious freedom conditions in Syria continued to deteriorate throughout 2016 as internal conflict worsened and the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continued. Syria’s religious communities have endured religious freedom violations from various actors, including President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the approximately 100 armed opposition groups, and U.S.-designated terrorist groups such as ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The deliberate targeting and indiscriminate bombing of Sunni Arab-dominated areas by President al-Assad’s regime and its Iranian and Russian allies have heightened tensions between Sunni Arabs and many other communities in Syria, including the Christian, Alawite, Shi’a, and Druze communities. The United Nations (UN) has also found al-Assad guilty of using chemical weapons at least 14 times in rebel-held areas, although the government claimed it had surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, and the Euphrates Shield, supported by the Turkish government, recaptured the northern Syrian cities of Manbij and Jarablus from ISIS, which continues to rule over its territories with brute force, targeting anyone who does not adopt its ideology. Armed opposition groups’ fighters, while not adhering to any unified policy, have engaged in sectarian attacks. Due to the collective actions of the al-Assad regime, elements of the armed opposition, and U.S.-designated terrorist groups, USCIRF again finds in 2017 that Syria merits designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has found since 2014. In 2017, USCIRF also finds that ISIS merits designation as an “entity of particular concern” (EPC) for religious freedom violations under December 2016 amendments to IRFA.