WASHINGTON, D.C.— Nadine Maenza, Chair of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), published an article comparing the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria’s respect for religious rights and equality with the behavior and attitudes of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA). Maenza stressed the need to support the DAA as it is the only project which guarantees a secure and stable future in Syria.
After her recent visit to North and East Syria and her examination of the political, military, and economic realities on the ground, including the status of religious freedoms for the region’s population, Maenza published an online article for the National Interest in which she stated that in order to achieve victory and guarantee a secure and stable future in Syria, the existence of a legitimate government accepted by the local people was crucial. She explained that Washington looks forward to withdrawing from North and Eastern Syria while maintaining a military presence to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ensure the defeat of ISIS.
Maenza further stated that the SDF was not only fighting the Islamic State (ISIS), but was still fighting to secure the opportunity to establish autonomous self-rule in North and East Syria. The DAA has an excellent track record of good governance over the past seven years, she wrote, particularly regarding the protection of religious freedom and equality.
Maenza added that the DAA describes itself as multi-ethnic and multi-religious, with three official languages: Syriac, Arabic, and Kurdish, and provides the opportunity for everyone to participate regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Women comprise half of the administration’s leadership, wrote Maezna, noting that the administration welcomes Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, and any others from practicing their religious rites openly, even when facing danger and great pressure due to the threats of the Turkish occupation, the Syrian regime, or religious extremists like ISIS.
Maenza compared the situation of freedoms in the DAA- and SDF-controlled areas and those under the control of the Turkish-backed SNA, concluding that the latter does not have any answers or explanations for the horrific conditions in its areas of control. Afrin, now occupied by Turkey and the SNA, was once considered the jewel of Syria, untouched by the civil war. Now it is the site of serious war crimes, especially against Christians who have been arrested and tortured on charges of apostasy.