WASHINGTON / BRUSSELS – In an op-ed published by The Hill on Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-LA-5) and Nadine Maenza, Vice Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), expressed their sympathy and support for the Democratic Automatic Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria (NES), “a burgeoning democracy that promotes freedom of religion and belief.” Abraham and Maenza, both recently visited the Autonomous Administration and were impressed by the ongoing democratic project and underlying ideology of the DAA. According to them, the Autonomous Administration is a powerful threat to the status quo of the Syrian, Iranian, and Turkish regimes.
According to their op-ed, Abraham and Maenza believe that this small self-governing region of some 4 million people can be an example of self-governance for diverse populations and a beacon of hope in the fight against the religious and ethnic sectarianism that dominates the region. “This community of 4 million people is multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, and multi-religious with many women occupying positions of leadership,” wrote Abraham and Maenza. “Arab and Kurdish Muslims live peacefully alongside Christians, Yazidis, and those of other religions.”
“In fact, the Christian community in northeast Syria is among the oldest in the world with services still conducted in Aramaic, the language of Jesus,” they continued. “However, Christians are under constant attack and on the verge of being wiped out in Syria and Iraq.” Recognition of the progress made in NES and the preservation of the DAA will “help ensure that Christianity and other minority religions will continue to exist in Syria.”
The democratic project in NES can serve as an alternative narrative of society in direct opposition to the dark and dehumanizing ideologies that have spread chaos and violence throughout the region. The DAA is surrounded by Turkey, Iran, and the Assad regime of Syria that want to see it destroyed because “these countries have embraced Islamic fascism,” according to Abraham and Maenza. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the defense forces of the DAA, were, and are, the boots on the ground in the US-led coalition against the darkest form of sectarianism, the Islamic State.
The European Syriac Union (ESU) welcomed the call by Congressman Abraham and Vice Chairperson Maenza for the U.S. to recognize the DAA. In a message sent to SyriacPress, ESU Co-Chair Tony Vergili and ESU Foreign Affairs representative Metin Rhawi stated that the call for official recognition is very important for the Syriac and other peoples of the DAA.
According to Vergili, official recognition would show true appreciation for the years-long struggle and fight of the Syriac people for democratic self-determination and constitutional, cultural, and linguistic rights:
“The European Syriac Union has and will keep appealing to especially the United States to be a friend of the Syriac people. The DAA established in North and East Syria is a model which appreciates diversity and allows for co-existence of peoples. It is a model for human kind and benefits Christians and Muslims alike. It is a farewell to the centralized status-quo dictatorial regimes and highly repressive political systems.”
Rhawi emphasized the importance of Abraham and Maenza’s clear understanding of the situation in Syria, saying that, “For the future of the Middle East, and in particular Syria, the DAA model can be an effective solution for the democratic self-governance of multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-ethnic populations.”
Vergili and Rhawi expressed their gratitude to Abraham and Maenza for visiting the DAA and seeing the situation on the ground and the work of the Autonomous Administration with their own eyes. The DAA is a place where Syriac presence in the Middle East can be guaranteed. The presence of Christian Syriacs (Arameans-Chaldeans-Assyrians) in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey is under existential threat and in urgent need of help.