The U.S. has turned a blind eye to Turkey and their jihadi allies “dismantling” the pluralistic model established by the Kurdish groups in northwestern Syria’s Afrin region that allowed Kurds, Christians, and Arabs to live side by side in peace and protected the area from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), suggested a Syriac activist.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has refused to help the Kurds in Afrin, repeatedly arguing that the American military does not maintain a presence there.
Despite activists and a top United Nations envoy accusing Turkey and its Islamic extremist partners of carrying out ethnic cleansing against the religious minorities in Afrin, namely Christians and Yazidis, the U.S. State Department recently declared, “We remain committed to our NATO ally Turkey, to include their legitimate security concerns.”
The U.S. has acknowledged on numerous occasions that the American-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who recently lost Afrin to Turkey made the defeat of ISIS possible.
Nevertheless, Turkey considers the YPG to be affiliated with the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), using the argument as an excuse to conquer Afrin.
Echoing other activists during an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation on March 23, Bassam Ishaak, the president of the Syriac National Council, a Syrian opposition group, said Turkey had seized Afrin with the help of Syrian rebels who are religious extremists.
He urged the United States and the international community as a whole to help liberate the inhabitants of Afrin, which include Syriac Christians and Yazidis, from Turkey and its extremist allies, saying:
[Turkey and its allies have] dismantled the model in Afrin that was run by the people who fought with the international coalition ran by the U.S. and who fought with ISIS in [the terrorist group’s former capital] Raqqa. These [Kurdish] people liberated Raqqa, and a month later they were paid by Turkey coming into their homeland and taking it over with religious extremist rebels who want to establish [their own] religious [system].
Some activists say that members of ISIS and al-Qaeda have infiltrated the ranks of the Syrian rebels fighting alongside Turkey, taking advantage of the offensive against the Kurds in Afrin to target Christians and Yazidis.
Ishaak, who has voiced support for a decentralized Syria that includes an autonomous Kurdish region, declared:
We need to support those [Kurdish] political forces … who acted to implement religious freedom in the region. In the case of northwestern Syria and Afrin, there was a self-administration that was pluralistic—it was made up of Kurds, Syriacs, and Arabs from the region that have protected the region from ISIS and implemented security which is key for any minority anywhere to be able to survive.
The Kurds have already combined three Kurdish-led autonomous areas in northern Syria into an independent federal system.
Turkey has indicated that it will invade other Kurdish-held areas in Syria, including Manbij, where the United States maintains a presence. Ankara has also vowed to push the Kurdish PKK out of Iraq’s Yazidi-majority Sinjar region.
Former Republican Congressman from Virginia Frank Wolf, a long-time advocate for religious minorities who serves as a distinguished fellow at the pro-religious freedom 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, stressed that Iran-allied militias sanctioned by Baghdad had prevented Christians from returning to Mosul, rendering the city free of Christians after 2,000 years.
“In a few years, no Christians will be left in the cradle of Christianity” Iraq, reiterated Wolf, adding that the population of the religious group has dropped dramatically from about 1.5 million in 2003 to an estimated 250,000 now.
“We have seen the Christian population in the Middle East virtually eliminated,” Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, added at the Heritage event, noting that the Trump administration believes religious freedom “is a central issue of the day and we will fight for it.”
Amb. Brownback pointed out that “70 percent” of Christians across the world are suffering from some persecution.
The once thriving Jewish population in Iraq has also been nearly eradicated, from 150,000 in 1948 to currently no more than ten, noted Wolf.
Ishak from the Syriac National Council is also a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Democratic Council.