Ciya Kurd sheds light on the situation of religious and ethnic communities in northeast Syria – ANHA | HAWARNEWS
To begin with, could you describe the autonomous administration’s vision for religious freedom and mutual respect among the different religious and ethnic communities in northeast Syria? How does this view clash with both the Assad regime’s use of bigotry and the future goals of other segments of the Syrian opposition?
The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) adopts the principle of freedom of religion and belief as the basis for strengthening individual freedoms and preserving the diversity of society. This was confirmed by certain articles of our social contract, which stated that all ethnic and religious communities have the right to form their own institutions and preserve their culture, and that no community has the right to impose its faith to others by force. On this basis, the Autonomous Administration has included all religious communities in the administration, to resolve all historical religious and sectarian conflicts in our regions. As an example of the inclusiveness of AANES, the Office of Religious Affairs is headed by a Muslim and has two deputies, one Christian and one Yazidi.
After the liberation of Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Tabqa and Manbij from the Islamic State, with the support of the World Coalition, we immediately set up civil administrations based on peaceful coexistence, religious tolerance and equality genders. Many Yazidis, Christians, Kurds and secular families who fled ISIS have returned home. Women’s and civil organizations have started working in these areas and have made significant improvements in social transformation. Thus, AANES has become a model for the future of a democratic and pluralist Syria in which all religions and beliefs enjoy freedom..
As for the Syrian opposition, which adopts political Islam as an ideology to shape the future of Syria, it does not differ from the radical groups, which have followed systematic policies of kidnappings, murders, rapes and other heinous crimes in occupied Afrin and Sari Kani. against Yazidis and other communities. Christians were also subjected to the same disastrous policies. These crimes have been documented by UN reports on Syria.
USCIRF held a hearing in June 2020 to discuss religious freedom conditions specifically in northeast Syria, including areas governed by AANES. Now, two years later, how have conditions evolved? How has AANES concretely worked to implement its stated commitment to religious and ethnic pluralism and inclusion?
AANES has established a culture of respect for religious identities in our society, as an alternative to the sectarian practices of the Islamist opposition.
We write a new social contract for northern and eastern Syria, then hold free and fair elections, and everyone will have the opportunity to participate.
However, one of the main challenges facing AANES is the Turkish threat and its daily attacks on our regions with the aim of creating chaos, instability and undermining the culture of peaceful coexistence between the various ethnic groups and religious, as the Ottomans did against the Armenians and the Kurds. The Turkish attacks are a clear violation of the ceasefire agreement signed with the US government on October 17, 2019.
In the past year alone, the Turkish government has carried out more than 35 attacks on civilian areas and more than 45 people have been killed, most of them civilians, women and children, in addition to some SDF leaders , who joined the Global coalition in the fight against Daesh. The US government has condemned the latest attacks on Kobani, but inaction on the killing of civilians in our areas is an unfortunate position.
The Turkish attacks provide an opportunity for extremist organizations in all their forms to organize and launch terrorist attacks. We were able to obtain confessions from some of the elements who participated in the attack on Al-Hasakah prison and other recent attacks, that they received support from Turkey to carry out these attacks. Therefore, we can say that Turkish practices undermine international counter-terrorism efforts.
Some AANES critics have accused it of elevating Kurdish nationalist interests above the interests of all who live in the northeast: Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Yazidis and others. Other members of minority groups fear that their support for AANES will make them particularly vulnerable if regime forces return to the northeast. How do you react to these criticisms and fears?
The Kurds are one of the main communities of the AANES, and they played a pioneering role in the construction of this project, but after the liberation of the Arab majority areas from ISIS, the administrations formed in these areas are Arab majority and each region has formed its own administration of the communities of this region. These accusations are false and are pursued by parties hostile to the AANES, notably the Turkish regime, which tries to stir up Arab nationalist sentiment towards the Kurds of the region and targets them in this way.
We call on all parties to actively participate in the next elections in our regions and to be part of AANES.
How has the Turkish military’s invasion and control of Afrin in 2018 and of a much larger part of Syrian territory since late 2019 impacted the religious and ethnic minorities of this region, as well as the capacity of the autonomous administration to include and protect these communities?
The Turkish invasion of Afrin, Serêkaniyê and Tal Abyad destroyed what the autonomous administration had built of a climate of coexistence and religious tolerance in these regions. The religious communities of Afrin and Serêkaniyê, and in particular the Yazidis, have been subjected to various forms of violence, including kidnappings, rapes, captivity of women, murders, looting of property and forced displacement at the hands of Turkish-backed groups.
More than half a million people have been forcibly displaced from these areas, including many Yazidi, Christian, Alawite and Chechen families, most of whom are in camps in our areas without international and humanitarian attention.
How does US foreign policy, toward Syria in general and the northeast in particular, affect the lives of religious and ethnic minorities under the AANES and its ability to carry out its stated commitment to freedom nun?
American policy has a strong impact on our region, and we hope that the United States will continue to support the stability and protection of ethnic and religious communities.
And we appreciate America’s partnership with the SDF to fight terrorism. We have sacrificed over 13,000 of our soldiers and we have many more wounded soldiers in the war on terrorism.
In order to inflict a permanent defeat on terrorism and to maintain stability and the protection of religious minorities, we need political, economic and military support for AANES.
We appreciate the USCIRF recommendations because if followed, they would help us continue as a place that protects religious minorities and provides a future for all NES residents. These include pressuring Turkey to withdraw, granting political recognition to AANES and including AANES in all talks for a political solution according to the UN resolution . 2254.
The hearing also took place in the presence of the following personalities:
1- Ms. Nadine Mainza, President of the American Commission on Religious Freedom
2- Nuri Turkel, vice-president of the American committee
3-Ethan Goldrich, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State
3- Badran Jia Kurd, Deputy Vice President of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria
4- Salem Al-Maslat; Leader of the Syrian opposition coalition