Joint statement on Northeast Syria by Yazda, AJC and KAFH addressed to the Members of U.S. Congress

The American Jewish Committee Houston, The Kurdish American Foundation of Houston, and Yazda writes this letter in regards to the recent developments involving Turkey’s attack in the Northeastern region of Syria. We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms, and express our deep concern concerned about a retreat from American principles and presence which will lead to massive ethnic cleansing of Kurds, Yazidis and other minorities, as well as greater instability in that region, the potential resurgence of ISIS, increased influence of destabilizing external forces in Iraq, and new waves of refugees.

The recent decision by the White House to withdrew US troops stationed in the area has not only baffled experts but also to the Kurds, Yazidis and other minorities both here in the United States and abroad. As you are well aware, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spearheaded the counter-offensives against ISIS in Syria. Their sacrifices cannot be so quickly dismissed; nor can we forget that the Kurds and other minorities are adept at maintaining stability in a massively unstable area. In the last three years alone, over eleven thousand (11,000) SDF members have been killed and 22,000 wounded in the many battles against ISIS in Syria alone. Despite these great sacrifices made in the name of liberating the region, ISIS remains an immediate threat to all peaceful communities. SDF have worked side by side along with United States military and have provided a safe haven to Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities in the region.

Many Kurds, Yazidis, and Christians of Iraq and Syria live in the United States as both naturalized and natural-born citizens, and have been greatly encouraged by the increased amity and cooperation. This encouragement is only equaled by the dismay felt when the Turkish forces – taking advantage of the absence of United States troops – began to launch indiscriminate attacks against civilian targets under the auspices of defending a “safe zone,” which Turkey claims is a security risk despite facing no serious military threat from the area in nearly four years. Now, Turkey has aligned itself with several radical groups, and have instigated war crimes and crimes against humanity by deliberately targeting ethnic and religious minorities, including Kurds, Yazidis and Christians.

We call on the Senate to pass a new resolution with respect to Syria, re-affirm the United States’ support for the Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and other minorities in Northeast Syria, stop ethnic cleansing in Afrin, Ras Al Ain and Tal Abyad and along the Turkish-Syrian border, sanction Turkey for its malign activities and human rights violations, and take necessary measures to remove Turkish aligned radical groups from these areas.

We also urge the Congress to pay close attention to thousands of captured ISIS fighters. One breakout attempt has already been foiled but with the ongoing chaos it seems almost inevitable that these imprisoned terrorists will be presented with an opportunity to escape. For the last seven years, ISIS has been greatly diminished yet not eliminated completely. To allow any opportunity for ISIS to reconstitute itself would be a great failure of foreign policy, and jeopardize the hard-fought gains against ISIS. Victims of ISIS, including victims of Yazidi genocide, continue to await meaningful justice for these groups.

We are asking for your office, along with your congressional colleagues, to impress upon the Administration the serious need to reconsider the decision to remove United States troops form the area in light of the humanitarian crisis perpetrated by Turkish forces. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you during the Congressional recess in your district office.