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U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Holds Hearing on Religious Freedom

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced a June 10th virtual hearing under the banner Safeguarding Religious Freedom in Northeast Syria

Northeast Syria has been a region with devastating conflict over the past decade. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) violently targeted religious and ethnic minorities between 2014 and 2019 from all walks of life. At the same time, the Assad regime has maintained its violent campaign since 2011 to repress all forms of both armed and peaceful opposition, with disregard for the massive human suffering it has caused. As coalition forces joined local efforts to defeat ISIS and a measure of security slowly returned to the northeast, constituents from the area launched an initiative to introduce local governance, autonomy from the Assad regime, diverse representation, and individual freedoms. That initiative evolved into what is now known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

In October 2019, the U.S. government announced a significant drawdown of its military presence in northeast Syria and signaled tacit approval for Turkey to cross the border. That incursion and subsequent establishment of an occupation zone atop AANES-governed territory has been catastrophic for local communities. It has led to the displacement of around 100,000 civilians and the persistent shelling of towns and villages, including some that are traditionally home to Muslim Kurds and Arabs as well as Christian and Yazidi populations.

Witnesses will give analysis about religious freedom conditions in the AANES, Turkey’s ongoing actions in the region, the threat of ISIS, and the impact of U.S. policy.

Opening Remarks

  • Tony Perkins, Chair, USCIRF

  • Gayle Manchin, Vice Chair, USCIRF


  • Amy Austin Holmes, Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center, and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University

  • Sara Kayyali, Syria Researcher, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch

  • Hassan Hassan, Program Director, Non-State Actors and Geopolitics, Center for Global Policy

  • Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

This hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. Members of the media should register online and can email for any questions. The video recording of the hearing will be posted on the Commission website. For any additional questions, please contact Jamie Staley at or 202-279-0274.

Tony Perkins, Chair · Gayle Manchin, Vice Chair

Gary Bauer · Anurima Bhargava · James Carr · Nury Turkel

Erin D. Singshinsuk, Executive Director

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.

Members of the IMFC who are interested can Register Here for this virtual hearing to be held Wednesday, June 10, 2020 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM ET



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