Freedom to Believe Statement on U.S. Withdrawal from Northeast Syria
On Sunday October 6, 2019, The White House announced the U.S. would withdraw American troops from Northeast Syria. The United States currently has just over one thousand troops in the area, training and advising the primarily Kurdish-comprised Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Northeast Syria has been a safe haven for religious freedom since 2015. Due to American presence and the sacrifices of our SDF allies, Christians, Yezidis, and Muslims; Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmen, and Armenians have all been able to practice their faiths and live in relative safety in recent years.
We urge President Trump to reverse the withdrawal from Northeast Syria. Our allies on the ground rely on American presence to fend off potential threats. Turkey is not a fully trustworthy partner and cannot be relied upon to protect religious freedom and the human rights of ethnic minorities.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has made it clear he intends to force Kurds out of their historical land and replace them with other ethnic groups, setting the stage for a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities. A mass-scale humanitarian crisis will ensue. Europe and the United States are not prepared for the fallout of a new refugee crisis and resurgent Daesh terrorists.
Our August 2019 visit to "Little Kurdistan"
Our team visited Nashville, Tennessee or “Little Kurdistan”— home to the largest Kurdish population in America numbering at over 20,000. We reached out to the Kurdish community in Nashville with an intent to help build a bridge between not only Kurds and Americans but also between Americans and Muslims. The Kurds are majority Muslim, they have made Nashville their home since the early 80s. We had the opportunity to interact with organizations, individuals and community centers which included the Salahadeen Center, a Kurdish led mosque.
Our team was fortunate enough to sit down and have a detailed conversation with Imam Salah of the Salahadeen Center. We shared out thoughts and goals in which he responded positively. Imam Salah believes in an open-door policy, regardless of religious belief or political affiliation to achieve a better understanding between American conservatives and American Muslims and Kurds. We later joined the Imam for Friday Prayers and followed up with a lunch conversation.
Our team also met with Bnyad Sharef, a Kurd from Erbil who was recently impacted by the travel ban. Bnyad has been in the U.S. for 2 years, we had the opportunity to hear his story. His father worked alongside American troops in Iraq as a translator, his family was given a visa to come to the U.S. but was denied last minute at the Cairo airport due to the travel ban. As word spread of their dire situation, they were eventually allowed into the United States, welcomed at the airport by Tennessee officials and the Nashville community.
We had fascinating conversations with Kurdish Professionals, a local organization composed of young Kurds looking to better their careers and community members. We hope to collaborate with Kurdish Professionals in the future. Lastly, we had a one-on-one talk with a Kurd named Sekvan who also worked with the U.S. military in Iraq. Sekvan is now a successful business owner in Nashville!
We look forward to our next trip to Little Kurdistan and hope to further our relationship with the community!
July 16-18 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom Summit
The US. State Department will host its second summit on religious freedom led by Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador on religious freedom issues. The event will include Nadia Murad, a Yezidi survivor of the Islamic State genocide campaign against religious minorities in Iraq. Nadia Murad was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Pastor Andrew Brunson will also attend, he was being held by the government of Turkey for more than two years on farce charges due to his Christian identity.
We encourage continuous efforts by the United States to push forward religious liberty across the globe. We believe that religious freedom is a basic human right and that no individual or group should be persecuted based on their faith. Advancing religious freedom in places such as Turkey against Christians, Iraq against Yezidis, China against Uighurs and Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims should be a top priority.
Both at home and abroad, religious liberty should be celebrated not targeted. The United States has an opportunity to lead governments towards the right path but must also be prepared to pressure authorities if they fail to grant their citizens the right to practice their faith.
We strongly believe that the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom this week will be a great opportunity for different faith groups, persecuted individuals and governments to collaborate and achieve greater religious liberty.