FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2019
USCIRF Statement on Turkish Offensive in Northeast Syria
WASHINGTON, DC – In response to news reports that Turkey has launched airstrikes on the border region of northeast Syria, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is urging the Trump administration to demand Turkey cease airstrikes on or near civilian areas and end its partnership with radical Islamist militias that have wreaked havoc elsewhere in northern Syria.
“Civilians in territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who represent a diverse group of religious and ethnic communities, are now at dangerous risk of falling victim to the violent chaos that Turkey’s incursion is likely to spark,” said USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins. “The United States and international partners must move quickly to limit civilian casualties and to prevent a repeat of the disastrous occupation of Afrin, Syria, by Turkish forces and their Syrian militia allies since 2018, which has displaced beleaguered Kurds, Christians, Yazidis and others.”
“Northeast Syria was a relatively free but fragile environment before this dangerous incursion,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin. “There is now a serious risk that Turkey’s offensive, and the likely redeployment of SDF troops to confront it, could open the door to a mass escape of ISIS detainees or a dangerous resurgence of the terrorist group in Syria and beyond.”
USCIRF noted in its 2019 Annual Report chapter on Syria that the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration (AA) in northeast Syria had created a uniquely supportive religious freedom environment, “allowing Muslims, Christians, and other communities to openly practice and express their beliefs—even including the freedom for Muslims to convert to other traditions and for residents to express unbelief or atheism.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Dwight Bashir at email@example.com or +1-703-898-6554.