ZALIN (QAMISHLI), Syria – On Friday, scholar and Wilson Center Fellow Amy Austin met with Syriac Union Party (SUP) officials at the party’s headquarter in Zalin to be informed about the situation in the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria. She was received by SUP co-chair Sanharib Barsoum and SUP official and deputy co-chair of the DAA Executive Council Joseph Lahdo.
Amy Austin is a Public Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and has researched and published on Egypt, the DAA, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and on the US security role in the Middle East. She is currently visiting North and East Syria to do fieldwork and to be informed of the situation on the ground.
Barsoum and Lahdo informed Austin about the situation of the Democratic Autonomous Administration and the ongoing military threats and destabilization efforts by Turkey and its proxy Syrian National Army. Turkey and its proxy militias, which have almost no non-Arabs in its ranks and many of which espouse radical Islamist ideologies, continue to threaten the region through shelling, infringements, and tactical destabilizing efforts like cutting off water to the region.
This is especially true in the area of Tel Tamr and surrounding villages in the Khabur Valley, a traditional Syriac (Aramean-Assyrian-Chaldean) area which was overrun in 2015 by Islamic State. Attempts by the Syriacs to make the Khabur Valley a canton for their own people have so far been unsuccessful.
I spoke to one of the #Assyrian Christians who was captured by ISIS in 2015 and held in captivity for over a year. This person has now returned to their home in the Khabur region, but still lives in fear because extremist factions backed by Turkey are just a few miles away. pic.twitter.com/WThsswrrbM
— Doktora Amy Austin Holmes (@AmyAustinHolmes) October 7, 2021
In addition to the situation in the region, Barsoum, Lahdo and Austin discussed the aspirations and goals of the Syriac people in Syria, and the need to have their national and political rights written down in a new Syrian constitution. Without formal constitutional recognition the continuity and survival of Syriacs in their homeland Syria – named after the Syriacs – would be endangered. In the Democratic Autonomous Administration’s social contract, the Syriacs and their language are officially recognized (also in Iraq the Syriac language is officially recognized and the Syriac people as Assyrian-Chaldeans).
Amy Austin has provided research based arguments which counter Turkish claims that the Syrian democratic forces in Syria or the Sinjar resistance units in Iraq are terrorist extensions of an organization outlawed by Turkey. She calls to stick to the facts. In an interview with Syriac satellite TV station Suroyo TV, Austin stated that Turkish claims about the SDF representing a threat were simply a lie. Turkish intervention was based on a lie.
Dr. Amy Austin Holmes (Wilson Center): Turkish claims about the SDF representing a threat were simply a lie. Turkish intervention was based on a lie https://t.co/qv62ejP1YX
— SyriacPress (@SyriacPress) July 25, 2021