U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Vice Chair Maenza visits North and East Syria to learn about “multi-ethnic and multi-religious” administration

NORTH AND EAST SYRIA —Vice Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Nadine Maenza and Evangelical pastor from Nashville, Tennessee Steve Berger arrived in Zalin (Qamishli) in North and East Syria to learn about progress being made by the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria.

The pair first visited the headquarters of Foreign Relations Commission of the DAA in Zalin where they were received by Commission Co-Chair Abdul Karim Omar, Vice Co-Chair Abir Elia, spokesperson for the Commission Kamal Akif, and DAA Representative in Europe Mezkin Ahmed.

During the meeting, Abdul Karim Omar explained the experience of DAA in governance and its model for administering the regions and cities of North and East Syria. What distinguishes the DAA model, said Omar, is the representation of all religious and ethnic components and the co-chair system — applied at all levels of governance — which also ensure the representation of women. The only exception being institutions specifically for women, which have no male representation.

The human rights and ceasefire violations committed by Turkey and its proxies were also discussed.

The humanitarian situation in the region, especially a year after Turkey’s invasion of the region. Turkey’s October 2019 invasion and subsequent occupation of Tel Abyad and Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn) displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians who are now living in camps. With the addition of Turkey’s weaponization of water, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the U.N. Security Council’s inability to renew U.N. aid deliveries through important border crossings, the humanitarian situation in the North and East Syria hangs by a thread.

Omar stressed the need to reopen the Tel Kogar (Yaroubia) Border Crossing to provide humanitarian assistance and equipment to manage the coronavirus.

Maenza pointed out that they are very interested in the experience of DAA being multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and that they will visit all areas under DAA governance to further understand and evaluate the DAA system. Maenza also stated that they see the DAA model as a wonderful and effective model that ensures the rights of all peoples.