USCIRF Hearing Addresses the Lack of Religious Freedom in Syria | Persecution

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USCIRF Hearing Addresses the Lack of Religious Freedom in Syria

By Valkyrie Armstrong

06/01/2022 United States (International Christian Concern) The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) held a virtual hearing on May 10 to discuss freedom of religion or belief in Syria and Turkey’s involvement in the human rights abuses occurring there.  

Four expert witnesses testified during the hearing, documenting how the Assad regime has, as USCIRF Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum said, continuously “violated, exploited, and immeasurably damaged” the rights of religious minorities within Syria. The USCIRF hearing addressed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his continued efforts to discriminate against members of religious groups that do not adhere to his own branch of Islam.  

The hearing brought many instances of religious persecution to light, including the destruction of religious minorities’ houses of worship and the brutal attacks on and displacement of religious minority communities by the Sunni Islamist militant group, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Moreover, in eastern Syria, there have been attacks nearly every day from ISIS, which has negatively impacted religious minorities in the region. 

The hearing also emphasized Turkey’s involvement in the religious freedom violations in Syria. Commissioner Kleinbaum noted that Turkish-Supported Opposition groups (TSOs), such as factions of the Syrian National Army, are also threatening freedom. These TSOs have promoted and pursued religious and ethnic cleansing and have targeted women and girls in religious minority communities through “kidnapping, sex trafficking, and lethal torture,” according to Kleinbaum. 

Kleinbaum further explained that, as long as Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups have the power to trample on religious freedom, “there is no real chance for religious minorities —or any civilian communities—to find peace and stability, much less to thrive and prosper.” 

Islamic groups of various kinds threaten the safety and stability of war-torn Syria, namely by preventing Christian refugees from returning home and pressuring those who remain to flee. 

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