USCIRF Commends Targeted Sanctions Against Religious Freedom Violators in Syria

Aug 4, 2021

USCIRF Commends Targeted Sanctions Against Religious Freedom Violators in Syria

Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) applauded the U.S. government’s targeted sanctions against religious freedom violators in Syria, including the Turkish-backed militia Ahrar al-Sharqiya as well as individuals Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad al-Hayes, commonly known as Abu Hatem Shaqra, and Farrukh Fayzimatov.

USCIRF commends the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury for sanctioning against key players involved in committing disastrous religious freedom violations in northern Syria,” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said. “These sanctions should be the first step of many in holding such perpetuators accountable.”

The U.S. Department of State sanctioned Ahrar al-Sharqiya for serious human rights abuses including abduction and torture, looting private property from civilians, and barring displaced Syrians from returning to their homes. Abu Hatem Shaqra, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury, is a leader of Ahrar al-Sharqiya and directly complicit in many of the militia’s abuses against religious and ethnic minorities, including the trafficking of Yazidi women and children.

The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on Farrukh Fayzimatov for organizing fundraising campaigns to purchase equipment for the benefit of radical Islamist al-Qaeda affiliate Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), as well as recruiting more members through social media.

These new sanctions send a strong message that the Biden administration will take swift action to address the continuing brutality and violence towards religious communities in Syria,” USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava added. “We urge the U.S. government to continue imposing targeted sanctions against militias, HTS representatives and others committing atrocities against religious communities in Syria, as laid out in USCIRF’s 2021 Annual Report policy recommendations.”

In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended targeted sanctions on Syrian government agencies and officials, HTS principals, and the leadership of militias within the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA) responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States under human rights related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations. As recommended by USCIRF, the State Department designated HTS as an Entity of Particular Concern, or EPC, for the first time in December 2020.

In June 2020, USCIRF held a hearing on Safeguarding Religious Freedom in Northeast Syria, and listed policy recommendations for the U.S. government.

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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 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.